Disputes at work can hurt female employees much more than their male counterparts, new research has found. However, it is not the conflict, but rather the perception of the fight that can cause real problems for female employees.
In other words, women get a bad rap when it comes to disputes in the workplace, according to the research. That’s because women are seen as being less likely than male counterparts to repair a frayed relationship after a fight at work. Additionally, conflicts between two women were perceived to affect job satisfaction of those women in a negative way more so than conflicts between two men or a woman and a man.
The researchers found that women were just as likely as men to believe that conflict will affect job satisfaction. Also female employees were as likely as men to believe that women will not repair relationships after a dispute at work.
"Our research shows that when it comes to workplace conflict, women get a bad rap," said Leah Sheppard, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business. "We show how the negative stereotyping around so-called 'catfights' carry over into work situations."
The research polled the responses of 152 workers when looking at three conflict scenarios. Those scenarios included arguments between workers named Adam and Steve, Adam and Sarah, and Sarah and Anna.
"This study suggests there's still a long way to go when it comes to the perception of women in the workplace," said Sheppard, who conducted the study with Karl Aquino, a professor at the Sauder School of Business. "Hopefully, our findings will help to increase managers' awareness of this bias, so they don't let stereotypes guide their decisions on how they staff teams and leverage the full talent of female employees."
The research was published in the current edition of the journal Academy of Management Perspectives.