All bosses are difficult to some degree; gender doesn't make much odds, says Sue Mountstevens

Q: I've just started a new job with a female boss. It's the first time I've worked for a woman and I'm not sure what to expect.

A: Take it from me, there are difficult bosses and slightly less difficult bosses - the gender is irrelevant. They all want more than you think possible and when you deliver are rarely as effusive as you think they should be!

Of course, there are gender differences. Research shows that women speak almost three times as much as men, females use on average 20,000 words a day and males just 7,000, so this alone will generate a different management style.

Looking at senior executives - male or female - there are more similarities than differences. The majority tend to be focused, driven and overwhelmingly thick-skinned. They need to be to drive their teams forward, ignoring some of the plaintive cries of those who don't want to undergo constant change.

If you haven't reported to a woman before, what about creating a plan? My advice is to be flexible, open, listen to her requests, act before deadlines and deliver. Yes, exactly the same advice as if you were working for a man!

Q: I know it sounds rather greedy, but I want a life as well as a job. With the reduction in headcount, those of us remaining have to work harder. My boss is still demanding the same reports, yet our team has halved. To keep him happy I am working in excess of 60 hours a week and take work home at weekends. Help!

A: The subject of work/life balance seems to have all but disappeared in recent months. It is just as important as ever, but has almost become a taboo topic, as you are likely to receive a barbed "just thank goodness you have a job at all and quit bleating" in response.

What you need right now is some breathing space, to gain perspective, to gain confidence to talk to your boss about any demands you think are unreasonable. You say you are keeping him happy by doing long hours - are you sure? Have you asked? He is probably just as twitchy as you and may not even be aware of the pressures you are under. Negotiate a weekend off, go home early one evening, make some sustainable changes, but don't expect too much sympathy.

Most people are under pressure at the moment, both in and out of work, and although I may be criticised for not being more sympathetic, I think I would rather be stressed and working rather than stressed with a P45.n

If you have a question for Sue, email her at