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The Male Manager and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Nov 23, 2007
As a male it is not easy writing about PMS. There are many females, especially those local to the Bay Area, that would say 'don't even try!' There are some that would say things like 'men have their own PMS and menopause'. And so on.

But just because a topic is a difficult one does not mean that it should be avoided. And over the years I have seen PMS become a workplace issue. My thoughts and observations come strictly from a business perspective and not from a personal bias. For the record, my mother, my sister and my wife are all women.

If my comments are viewed as simplistic please consider that my comments are by a male for male managers. I have not personally encountered problems with female managers addressing a PMS issue with female employees although I am certain that it has occurred. Female managers, as well as female employees, are much more open to addressing PMS as a workplace issue.

It has been my experience that PMS is different for each woman -- some women feel there is no such thing, some are incapacitated and others have a 'good month and then a bad month'. PMS involves a 'cycle of life' and this cycle can be very different from woman to woman.

Even the medical community is not in agreement about PMS. Is PMS a monthly form of disability? Should employers recognize PMS and plan their schedules and workflow around it? Is PMS something that is private and something that is 'no business' of the employer? I have heard many different opinions. Unfortunately for male managers, no one has developed a workable 'PMS strategy' in the workplace.

PMS in the workplace comes in three basic forms with negative implications: absenteeism, reduced productivity and disruptions. Male managers often do not consider that PMS may be an issue. When I am speaking with a male manager, and the discussion involves a female employee's absenteeism, loss of production or disruptions, one of the questions I ask is 'how often do these problems occur?' This is a question I ask about all employees -- male or female. The male manager will think, pull out statistics, scratch his head and say 'about once a month around this time.' And not even consider that PMS may be involved.

When I bring up this possibility the male manager's typical response is avoidance -- it can't be, we can't talk about it, we don't want to know about it, etc. The problem with avoidance is that it provides no rationale for absenteeism, low production or disruptions. If a female employee does have a PMS problem and management will not acknowledge that problem then the employee can be assessed as being lazy, not interested or a troublemaker. This is not fair to the female employee.

How a male manager addresses PMS is the real question. One thing is clear -- avoidance is not the solution. From the workplace perspective the avoidance of PMS is a male problem. Females tend to speak about PMS much more openly -- even to males. Males often 'don't want to talk about that.'

What is a male manager to do? As with most management issues the answer is conditional and situational. There is no formula. However, I have seen some methods to resolve the avoidance problem.

Depending on the situation, a female employee or female manager can be of great help. Having a female speak about PMS to another female employee is not so much a 'woman thing' as it is a 'man thing'. Care has to be taken here about confidentiality and other ethical management issues. When a male manager acknowledges the problem but feels helpless the first thing I ask is -- is there another female that can help?

Once the problem is acknowledged the solution is much easier. Managers can reassign workload, give time off, give compensatory time off, etc. This can also be done when teams manage themselves. Again, the real negatives occur when the problem cannot be acknowledged.

There are no easy answers. Like most difficult problems awareness is the first step -- simply creating awareness can bring improved results. For businesses trying to become more 'human organizations' it is important to consider human needs. PMS is part of the life cycle -- not just a 'female' problem. For the male manager, it is important to realize female employees deserve the consideration!
About the Author
Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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