male and female bosses judged differently?

Management Line reports that a new study finds that “female bosses who are seen as unkind or insensitive are judged as worse managers. People, however, are prepared to overlook the same traits displayed by male managers. In other words, male and female managers are judged by different standards.”

This adds yet another frustrating layer to that already-infuriating chestnut about authoritative women seeming bitchy, while authoritative men seem like strong leaders. I’ll admit that I don’t know how much of this is my own internal hang-up, but as a female boss myself, it’s sometimes in the back of my mind that I might be being perceived as “bitchy” when I take a hard line with someone, when a man doing the same thing would just be perceived as resolute and authoritative. (I can also think of a couple of occasions in the past where just being friendly and empathetic — stereotypically “feminine” traits — has led some men to take me less seriously. I don’t think that’s happened in a few years though, which might be a result of me becoming ancient and withered.)

If I have to be seen as either the bitch who gets things done or the pushover who doesn’t, I’ll take “bitch who gets things done.” It’s infuriating that it has to be a choice, of course; I doubt many men are out there worrying that they’re seen as insufficiently sweet.

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. The Happy Employee*

    I worked in HR for almost a decade and most of my bosses were women. But I never really thought about it.

    After reading this post, I realize that the few male bosses I had were usually quite bad managers and that most of the things I know today, I learned from my female bosses.

    I’m aware that most HR professionals are women, so my goal in life is to make a difference ;-)

    But if somebody put a gun to my head and forced me to make a split second decision, I would rather work for a Mistress of HR than for a Master of HR.

    And I definitely love working for bitches who get things done. That’s a no-brainer for me!

  2. Luciana*

    Ohhh, I’m going to quote the last paragraph of your post from now on!

    Even my husband sometimes tells me I’m demanding (professionally speaking). When I ask him whether he would feel the same way of a male manager acting as I do, he becomes uncertain. There’s clearly a double standard in the way you are expected to act as a female manager vs. male.

  3. Christopher*

    “She found that female managers who couldn’t read unspoken emotions, such as facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice, were seen as less caring and thus received lower ratings of satisfaction from their staff.”

    I don’t quite understand how this rather innocuous research has led to such broad statements about female bosses. Research by Paul Ekman has shown that women have a significantly better ability to read these nonverbal signals than men. It’s really not surprising that people will have come to (probably unconsciously) expect this. Fortunately for most men and the women that don’t fit the stereotype, nonverbal communication is something that can be learned.

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