I just read an interview with Jessica Alba and she spoke about how she’s such a great boss she even makes her staff cry. I’m immediately irritated, and now I
don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with Kelly Cutrone’s book, If You Have To Cry Go Outside. I remember when this book came out in 2010. I was less mature than I am now (I’m still not as mature as I should be…), and without a business or any sort of responsibility to my name outside of my own life. I remember it serving as a symbol for female empowerment, and now more books have followed in a similar trend. Girl Boss I believe is one, and #girlboss is a very popular hashtag used by many entrepreneurs.
Kelly Cutrone is smart and successful. That’s evident. I haven’t read the book, so I have no idea what the writing is like. What I do remember is attempting to launch my non-profit and interviewing a few different girls to assemble a team. I was articulating my goals of professionalism, work ethic, etc. and the response from a particular person was: if someone’s crying, go outside. Which is basically saying, if you have a problem with something I could care less and take your concerns elsewhere. Which essentially means do what I say and have no opinions.
Still with me?
My thoughts are this: this is the worst management style one could ever adopt. I’m not super experienced; I don’t lead a team of 300+ and have a revenue surpassing billions of dollars. Sure, Jessica Alba’s scale of stress over at Honest Co. may be higher than mine. But should she be proud of being so…horrible that her staff cry? Does this make her a powerful female?? My goal is always productivity. How do I make this person as productive as possible? How can I be more productive today? Crying delays productivity, I promise you. Think about it. When we cry, we don’t cry for a few seconds and then forget about whatever anxiety we had and get straight back to work. It’s very much worth my time to sort out an issue then it is to not listen to someone’s concerns and have them cry for the rest of the day. Not to mention the long-term resentment that this builds.
Secondly, Jessica Alba is throwing her staff under the bus by saying that they can’t handle the company’s leadership, so they cry. I’m assuming her staff isn’t children. Not only is she saying she’s so mean to her staff they cry, she’s also saying that they don’t have her unique vision and don’t understand the business so they cry. Let me rephrase that: they cry because they don’t understand what’s happening. If this is the case, why were they hired?? All of these things are Jessica Alba’s fault. She is the visual leader of Honest Co. As a leader a part of your role is to communicate.
Leading without communicating is what dictators do. It requires blind faith, and willingness to do whatever you say with no questions asked. Maybe I’m too mouthy, maybe I’ve worked for myself for too long, but this is all kinds of wrong. We work in a capitalistic, democratic society. We do not live under a dictatorship. Staff should be able to voice their constructive concerns. This is a basic Human Resource law here in North America, if I’m not mistaken. I want to know when people are upset both in my personal and professional lives. If I don’t know, I can’t fix it. If it’s not fixed, they’re going to stay upset. Upset people aren’t productive people. Effective leadership, and certainly management, doesn’t have to involve tears.
My assessment is that Jessica Alba struggles, and is most likely very inexperienced, with managing personalities. It’s easy to be the absolute authority like Mao was, and dictate this and that and do this now. What’s more challenging is figuring out solutions that have the company’s best interests at its focus, but that make the team eager to accomplish too. That’s difficult and it involves strategy, patience, understanding, and most of all listening. Don’t let yourselves be confused with YAY WOMEN BEING LEADERS by hearing about a business owner speak with pride about being a horrible boss.
This isn’t empowering. This represents women in a really poor light, and I hope we all see the difference. Empowerment means empowering others, not unleashing fear tactics. Leadership is about building up your team, not bringing them down.
Being a boss means you’re aware of your team’s strengths and weaknesses and positioning them so that they’re most effective. You can have authority without making your team cry. Being tough doesn’t mean you’re not empathetic. Alba has a lot to learn, or at least her PR strategy needs some tweaking.