Workplace conflicts between women judged more harshly than clashes between men: Study

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET

When two men disagree at work, employees are more likely to believe it will blow over than when two women are at odds, a new Canadian study shows.

"Our research shows that when it comes to workplace conflict, women get a bad rap," says PhD candidate Leah Sheppard, who co-authored the study 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."

Participants were asked to evaluate three workplace conflict scenarios between managers - all identical except for the names of those involved: Adam and Steven, Adam and Sarah, or Sarah and Anna.

People were more likely to brand the Sarah-Anna conflict as negative, and more likely to assume it would make the workplace a more toxic environment.

The participants were also 15% more likely to believe the two men or the man-woman pair would be able to repair their relationship.

It made no difference whether the participants were men or women - both rated the woman-on-woman conflict more harshly.

"This study suggests there's still a long way to go when it comes to the perception of women in the workplace," Sheppard said. "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 study of 152 people was published in the journal Academy of Management Perspectives.


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