Men who have female bosses may feel threatened by them and act more assertively towards them than male supervisors, a new research finds.
Struggle over power dynamics can be a consequence of such behaviour by male employees towards their female managers, says the study published in the journal Society for Personality and Social Psychology said that
"The concept of masculinity is becoming more elusive in society as gender roles blur, with more women taking management positions and becoming the major breadwinners for their families," says lead researcher Ekaterina Netchaeva, assistant professor of management and technology at Bocconi University in Milan.
"Even men who support gender equality may see these advances as a threat to their masculinity, whether they consciously acknowledge it or not."
In an experiment with 76 college students (52 male, 24 female) at a US university, participants are told they will negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager.
After the negotiation, participants take an implicit threat test where they guess words that appear on a computer screen for a fraction of a second.
Participants who choose more threat-related words, including "fear" or "risk," are judged to feel more threatened.
Male participants who negotiate with a female manager exhibit more threat and push for a higher salary ($49,400 average), compared to men negotiating with a male manager ($42,870 average).
The manager's gender does not affect female participants, Netchaeva says.
The same results are reflected in two other experiments.
Self-assertive behaviour by men toward female bosses can disrupt the workplace dynamics, stifle team cohesiveness and negatively affect team performance, Netchaeva said.
In such cases, female supervisors may want to appear more proactive and less power-seeking to maintain smooth relationships in the workplace.