Thursday, March 1, 2018

Women's Incivility to Women

We are currently engaged in a great national conversation about why women do not do better at work. The first hypothesis blamed it on motherhood.  A woman without children was likely to do as well as any man. A woman with children was likely to want to spend more time away from work and the office. Thus they had different career paths.

The second hypothesis was sexual harassment. Many women have recently reported being sexually harassed in the workplace. They felt belittled and demeaned by it, and this fact in and of itself made it more difficult for them to do their jobs.

The third hypothesis, brought to us by Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, involves women’s incivility to other women. This aspect of the problem has generally been ignored, because it does not fit the sisterhood narrative.

Gabriel discovered that women were more rude to other women than to men. And that men were less rude to women than other women were. I have heard such stories for quite some time now, but it is better to go beyond the anecdotal.

Government Executive reports on the research:

[Gabriel’s] questions were about coworkers who put them down or were condescending, made demeaning or derogatory remarks, ignored them in a meeting, or addressed them in unprofessional terms. Each set of questions was answered twice, once for male coworkers and once for female coworkers.

“Across the three studies, we found consistent evidence that women reported higher levels of incivility from other women than their male counterparts,” Gabriel says. “In other words, women are ruder to each other than they are to men, or than men are to women.

“This isn’t to say men were off the hook or they weren’t engaging in these behaviors,” she notes. “But when we compared the average levels of incivility reported, female-instigated incivility was reported more often than male-instigated incivility by women in our three studies.”

Amusingly, women who leaned in, who were more assertive, were more often attacked by their female counterparts. One can only wonder what Sheryl Sandberg thinks of this:

The research shows that women who defied gender norms by being more assertive and dominant at work were more likely to be targeted by their female counterparts, compared to women who exhibited fewer of those traits.

The researchers also found that when men acted assertive and warm—in general, not considered the norm for male behavior—they reported lower incivility from their male counterparts.

This suggests men actually get a social credit for partially deviating from their gender stereotypes, a benefit that women are not afforded.

One might question the definition of gender stereotypes at play here. Why does anyone think that men must always be assertive and should never show kindness? Doesn't the term gentleman suggest otherwise?

To conclude, if we ask about the price of women’s incivility to other women we discover that it damages women’s job and career prospects:

Evidence emerged in the three studies that companies may face a greater risk of losing female employees who experience female-instigated incivility, as they reported less satisfaction at work and increased intentions to quit their current jobs in response to these unpleasant experiences. Paired with estimates that incivility can cost organizations an estimated $14,000 per employee, this presents a problem for organizations.


Jack Fisher said...

I'd like to know how "rude" is defined. In my dealings with professional colleagues, while I never sabotaged anyone's career, I believe that there are some things that people have to learn the hard way, and if that came across as being rude (and it did), that's what's called paying the dues.

“I taught you everything you know. But I didn't teach you everything I know" is attributed to Orson Scott Card, but I remember it from a comment Dale Earnhardt Jr said of his father.

David Foster said...

Here are two events that I did not witness personally, but was told about by highly credible friends who were there:

1) In a discussion of performance, future potential, and career path for a group of employees, the female manager running the meeting said of a female employee: "She dresses terribly, and her hairstyle is at least 20 years out of date."

The employee in question was not a field salesperson or in any other role involving meeting with customers; she was a graphics artist.

2) In a meeting about organization changes, a women who ran a division of a very large company responded to a proposal to put another women (who was then about 45 or 50, I think) as follows: "We don't want people that old in these jobs."

I think it is unlikely that male managers/executives would have made either of the two above comments (the second of which was actually illegal)

Sam L. said...

The claws are out. Or soon will be.

Jack Fisher said...

Women's Inhumanity to Women.

You know I read it in a magazine.

David Foster said...

On the other hand, and per Jack Fisher's question about how, "rude" is defined, here's Peter Drucker:

"There is tremendous stress these days on liking people, helping people, getting along with people, as qualifications for a manager. These alone are never enough. In every successful organization there is one boss who does not like people, who does not help them, and who does not get along with them. Cold, unpleasant, demanding, he often teaches and develops more men than anyone else. He commands more respect than the most likable man ever could. He demands exacting workmanship of himself as well as of his men. He sets high standards and expects that they will be lived up to. He considers only what is right and never who is right. And though often himself a man of brilliance, he never rates intellectual brilliance above integrity in others."

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Interesting quote. Where is it from??

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Finally! An academic states the obvious. All she had to do was ask every woman I’ve ever talked to: women would rather work for a male boss/manager any day of the week.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

David Foster @March 1, 2018 at 12:41 PM:

Great quote. And I would also say it matches the same exact description of every great teacher (parent, schoolteacher, sports coach, mentor, etc.) I’ve ever had. Spot on!

David Foster said...

Stuart...the Drucker quote is from his 1950s book 'The Practice of Management'.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Why does anyone think that men must always be assertive and should never show kindness? Doesn't the term gentleman suggest otherwise?

Of course probably that's why the term "gentleman" was invented - society hoping to tame the wild beast in the hearts of men, right? But its also a word of status, and so it may contain kindness, maybe only to people who deserve it, like others of equal station.

jabrwok said...

This story reminds me of the experience of a woman who created an all-female business:

It didn't work the way she expected.

Deana said...

In previous careers in more male dominated workplaces, I had both great and less than ideal male and female bosses.

Now that I am in a heavily female dominated field, I find that most women are fine to work with - some are just incredible. But the ones who are bad are just awful AND I promise you they would not be awful like that if we had more men there.

Needless to say we are always happy to see more men join us.

Ares Olympus said...

Redacted said... Ares, you're such a silly fool. ... Your ignorance is unbounded.

Thank you for the gentle slam, but these are not incompatible. A descriptive definition is "a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man" and a man without discipline, one who is dominated by his passions (like a wild beast) will likely fail on all three.

An open question is whether a gentleman comes from one's family's social standing, or whether you can aspire to these skills whatever your upbringing, and in the first case, I think there's more potential for objectively dishonorable behavior without bothering the conscience.

p.s. I see the Drucker quote here: Drucker wrote in his 1954 landmark The Practice of Management.

Jack Fisher said...

according to AO, a secretary-drowning senator is a gentleman because he was born to a wealthy rum runner but my gardener, who is almost certainly an illegal alien, cannot be.

David Foster said...

The concept of 'gentleman' is closely related to the concept of Chivalry, about which CS Lewis wrote an interesting essay:

Redacted said...

AO: "probably that's why the term 'gentleman' was invented - society hoping to tame the wild beast"

That's not why the term was "invented", as any etymologist will attest.

And it wasn't a "gentle slam", it was merely an observation.

Dick C. Normuss said...

I once worked in a government office in a department of 80 employees divided into four sections. The male-female ratio was about 50-50. Conflict amongst the women in each section would invariably develop and the men were pressured to 'take sides' in the female rivalries. The boss (a male) resolved the issue by periodically reshuffling everyone about once every six months or less. Same job, but new neighbors front, back, left, and right. That broke up the conflicts for a while.