Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a position to fill that involves a mix of high-level quantitative
and technical sill and also helping with office support. The high-end
functions are specialized but a smart person could learn them with a
good trainer. The office skills are simplistic and tedious – answering
phones and doing filing procedures so that all records are accessible to
other staff. The real critical factor is a sense of teamwork, because it is
a four-person office. The rest of us are women. We all answer the
phone as needed (it happens in spurts) even though our jobs are also
technical. We have never had a problem working around one another’s
busy times. I have a male applicant who knows the quant work cold
but I&'m worried the new guy might be a prima donna and think he&'s
too good for the office work. I don&'t want to be biased but I&'m nervous
about spending scarce resources on a bad hire. Am I:


Dear Biased:

You are biased, which comes from decades upon decades of having
women in traditional office support roles. Note that when it began it
was revolutionary even to allow female clerks, so female managers is
something folks a hundred years ago would have been shocked by. I
confess to not being able to watch Mad Men because it feels so
reminiscent of my youth, with men always telling women what to do.


But times have changed and what many of us grew up with as the
norm has changed by light years. Grow up and get with the times.
That said, in case your instincts are right, if there is a male boss who
could deliver the message it might add teeth to it. Even if not, make it
bleat that everyone with a capital E answers phones and that keeping
the job is dependant on helping, no matter how good the technical
work is. Set up a schedule of phone zones that’s explicit about who is
first up. Everyone has boring non-technical work they can do during
those times, like filing, email clean up, and other non-quantitative
tasks. Once you are comfortable with him you can get looser about all
this. If this doesn’t feel right, run the ad again and see if you find
someone you really jive with. Beyond your bias, in a very small officer
it is especially important that people like one another.