That Pesky Gender Difference – this time about reaction to social cues.

A recently published study found that at workplace women care about peer opinions more than men do (the Dec-Feb/2012 issue of Academy of Management Learning & Education).  The study was done in the context of leadership development.  I don’t take this to mean only in the managerial ladder, but in any kind of leadership, such as situational where an individual would take on a leadership role for a short period or for a certain task.

The four major areas chosen for measuring the qualities of “leadership” in this study are:  self-confidence, self-management, interpersonal understanding, and behavioral flexibility.  The study was done with MBA students, with a ratio of 3:1 male to female participants.  The researcher measured participants’ self rating and peer rating at three separate times over the course of a year.

04-assessment and recognition

04-assessment and recognition (Photo credit: leighblackall)

One of the results was that both men and women tended to rate themselves better than their peer’s rating of them. What is interesting is the women’s gradual convergence between self-assessment and peer’s assessment over time, while men’s self-assessment continued to be more inflated.  An interpretation may be that women are more willing to modify their behavior, or their self-assessment of their behavior, for the sake of their development.  Or, men are more cocksure of themselves!

Of course, these findings are double-edged swords for both women and men.  Women may be too concerned about others’ opinions and allow self-doubt to overshadow their judgment, and men can be too insensitive to others’ suggestions. I would add another layer:  Women might allow too much noise to interfere with setting up priorities and men could prioritize the “wrong” thing.  Listening is a crucial asset for all of us, but even more pertinent is our ability to discern/discriminate/distinguish among different voices.  Not all feedback is equally important, or accurate.

Personally, I think it is a tremendously delicate dance between caring about what others think of you (or, better yet, what others think) and staying true to your own conviction of who you are, or what you think needs to be done.  However, men still dominate in the management ranks in the corporate world as well as not-for-profit organizations.  Conventional wisdom still treats men who are more thoughtful, willing to listen, and do not “boldly” make a decision as “soft,” while more warily viewing women who are “decisive and aggressive/assertive.”  Neither gender has the monopoly of truth, but I like to believe that whoever has the humility to incorporate suggestions for self-development will ultimately advance.

Things don’t change quickly; individuals change even more slowly.  But I remain hopeful.  May you find something new, big or small, during this week as you listen with your heart and soul.

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

Direct Contact:  taso100@gmail.com

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