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Battle of bosses: Men tend to take more heat for errors

world Updated: May 27, 2012 14:25 IST

PTI
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Male executives may have had this experience, but a new research has now found that men who are in charge at their jobs are judged more harshly than their female counterparts for their errors.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University in the US found that the harsh judgement of macho-mistakes' are more common in for male-dominated fields, like construction work.

But female leaders in such fields were judged less harshly, possibly because they are expected to fall short in masculine settings, the researchers said.

For their study, published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, the researchers recruited 284 undergraduates who had, on average, almost three years of work experience.

They were subjected to read fictional emails that described a male or female leader's behaviour in two strongly gendered fields, nursing and construction.

The emails included accounts of errors the leaders had made: task errors, such as mismanaging an order for supplies, and relationship errors, such as losing his or her temper. (The leaders were given stereotypically Caucasian names, Bill or Barbara Smith, to avoid activating effects of ethnicity.)

In an online survey, the participants then evaluated the leaders, and indicated their willingness to work for them.

Not surprisingly, the surveys revealed that errors matter. "Leaders who made mistakes were viewed as less task-and relationship-competent, desirable to work for and effective than leaders who did not," lead researcher Christian Thoroughgood was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

Gender, too, mattered in their results, the study found.

The undergrads judged "Bill Smith" more negatively than "Barbara Smith" when the two were described as construction foremen. But when the errant leaders were identified as head nurses, the undergrads had similar perceptions of both male and female leaders.

Since this research was conducted using "paper people" (or fictitious) scenarios, "caution should be given to the generalisability of our findings to cases of leader error in real-world organisations," the researchers added.