Author Archives: kathrynwelds

About kathrynwelds

Organizational Psychologist | Change Consultant | Leadership and Career Coach | Thought Partner | Accountability Ally | Creating value by connecting people, information, and ideas, to accomplish strategic results Professional experience spans roles as an organizational psychologist, coach, consultant, leader in technology, healthcare, professional services, public sector.

Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark and Francis Flynn with Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo.

Francis Flynn

Help-seekers were more likely to expect that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal to a similar request. 

However, help-seekers underestimated the compliance rate of potential helpers who previously refused assistance.
This suggests that most people agree with a subsequent request, to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overtures for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask 10 people to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers had to ask six people for help before it was given, 40% fewer than expected.
Most people have a pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance, they concluded.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request to complete the survey would be less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requesters tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitated to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requesters have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, so it’s advisable to muster resilience and persistence.

Requesters and help-seekers analyzed requests using different criteria:  Requesters focused on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers receiving the request considered the inconvenience costs of saying “yes” compare with the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying “no.”

Requesters benefit from expanding the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized and may be willing to assist.

Potential helpers underestimated help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, in previous studies by the team.
This may result in less willingness to help underutilized formal support programs.
The most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

Bohns extended this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in deciding whether to commit an unethical act in research with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu.

People who observed the unethical act but didn’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who committed the actions.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth or to commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

Bystanders underestimated their impact on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort caused participants to commit the asocial act to avoid conflict.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported that employees’ systematically underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.
Most employees expect their efforts to be futile.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives,
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues,
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices.

This underestimation bias may be reduced by:

  • Comparative judgments,
  • Objectifying an influence target,
  • Comparing actual degree of personal influence compared to perceived influence,
  • Considering means of influence, including incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments,
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings suggest the benefit of asking for what you want, even after rejection and that you have more influence over others than you expect.

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?

-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

-*How accurate are inferences made from other people’s appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, teamedwith University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin, to investigate this question.

They asked volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likeability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured in full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

These findings suggest that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Judgments based on clothing cues were associated with less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
facial expression and posture enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

Observers can make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues, according to these findings.
Novelist John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany noted that “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter,” just as these researchers concluded.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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Inferring, Predicting Others’ Thoughts, Intentions, Behavior

Developing accurate inferences about others’ expectations and possible actions is essential for successful social interactions.

Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis

The brain’s process to develop predictions about others’ thoughts and behaviors was investigated by University College London’s Demis Hassabis, with R. Nathan Spreng of Cornell University, Vrije Universiteit’s Andrei A. Rusu, Harvard’s Clifford A. Robbins and Daniel Schacter, and Raymond A. Mar of York University.

R. Nathan Spreng

R. Nathan Spreng

Volunteers read about four fictional protagonists’ personality traits, then imagined each character’s behaviors in different situations.
Participants then underwent fMRI brain scans.

Andrei Rusu

Andrei Rusu

Medial prefrontal cortex activity in the brain was associated with accurate inferences about protagonists’ personality characteristics and behaviors, demonstrating that “brain activity can reveal whom someone is thinking about.

Clifford Robbins

Clifford Robbins

Lateral temporal cingulate cortex activity occurred when participants accurately determined protagonists’ degree of agreeableness, whereas activity in the posterior cingulate cortex activity was associated with correct judgments of protagonists’ degree of extraversion.

Daniel Schachter

Daniel Schachter

Brain regions responsible for processing inferences of personality traits and behaviors are functionally coupled with areas that differentiate people’s identities, found Hassabis’s group.

Raymond Mar

Raymond Mar

This means that specific brain regions “code” inferred personality traits in others and synthesize these characteristics into “personality models” that represent individuals and their likely behaviors in new situations.

Matthew Hertenstein

Matthew Hertenstein

People can even infer others’ emotional intentions through unseen touchreported Matthew Hertenstein with DePauw University colleagues Brittany Bulleit and Ariane Jaskolka, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner and Betsy App of University of Denver.

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Two hundred volunteers in the United States and Spain accurately perceived anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy conveyed by unseen touch.
However, they were not able to accurately identify touch signaling happiness, sadness, surprise, embarrassment, envy, or pride.

Dacher Keltner

Observers also accurately identified emotions conveyed by participants’ “tactile displays” when they touched paired volunteers.

Betsy App

Betsy App

Gian Gonzaga of UCLA collaborated with Keltner and University of Wisconsin’s Daniel Ward to investigate male-female communication pairs’ ability to infer and detect emotion.

Gian Gonzaga

Gian Gonzaga

Guided by Keltner’s “approach/inhibition theory of power,” the researchers attributed high power to one volunteer in a communication pair, then compared communications when both people were in an equal-power condition between women and men.

Participants ascribed high power showed behavioral disinhibition, and made less accurate judgments of the communication partner’s emotion.
In contrast, individuals assigned the low power role demonstrated more behavioral inhibition and reported greater self-consciousness and anxiety.

Men in engaged in power behaviors even when participants were attributed equal power, and this behavior was less apparent when both participants were men.
These studies confirm power differentials between women and men, and gender-related “emotion blindness” when male-female pairs misinterpreted each other’s attempts to convey specific emotions. 

Male pairs accurately detected anger, but men did not understand women’s attempts to convey anger in male-female pairs.
Likewise, women did not accurately detect men’s attempts to convey compassion, but female pairs accurately perceived expressions of happiness.

Sympathy was accurately communicated only when at least one woman was in the volunteer pair, demonstrating gender-related limitations to accurate empathy and emotionally intelligent interpersonal inferences.

-*How do you develop accurate inferences about others’ opinions and likely behaviors?
-*How do you revise your models of others’ personalities?

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Apologies: Repairing Relationships, Creating Interpersonal Peace

Jennifer Robbennolt

Jennifer Robbennolt

Apologies can resolve legal disputes ranging from personal injury cases to wrongful firings, according to University of Illinois’s Jennifer Robbennolt.

She found that admissions of guilt and remorse give plaintiffs and “wronged” parties a sense of satisfaction, fairness, and forgiveness that enables settlement and reduces monetary damage awards.

Robbbennolt asked more than 550 volunteers to serve as “plaintiffs” in an experimental scenario, then report their reactions to “settlement levers” including:

  • Reservation prices,
  • Aspirations,
  • “Fair” settlement amounts.

Apologies enabled “injured” parties to modify their perceptions of the situation and the “offender,” and to become more willing to participate in settlement discussions.
In addition, apologies changed the values injured parties’ assigned to settlement levers, so there was increased likelihood of settling the “case.”

The type of apologies and situational context affect the likelihood of case settlement.
Apologies that acknowledge responsibility and “blame” are more influential than apologies that express sympathy.
Acknowledging accountability reduces the injured party’s anger, increases willingness to accept a settlement, and moves toward emotional “closure.”

Janelle Barlow

Janelle Barlow

Apologies are a well-known tactic to handle complaints in customer service settings, where “every complaint is a gift,” according to Janelle Barlow of TMI and Claus Møller.

Claus Møller

Claus Møller

They view complaints as valuable feedback that points out a gap between customer requirements and business performance.
In addition, complaints indicate needed changes in products, services, and market focus.

Benjamin Ho

Benjamin Ho

Medical settings have found that apologies averted medical malpractice cases, sped settlement, and reduced financial awards, according to Cornell’s Benjamin Ho.

However, lawyers in other Robbennolt studies expressed concern that admission of guilt may lead to larger settlements.
This worry led to at least thirty-five U.S. states making some apologetic statements inadmissible at trial.

-*How do you determine when apologies are likely to repair a relationship and lead to “closure”?
-*What are the signs that apologies can deepen an interpersonal rupture?

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Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?

Organizational pressures can trigger expressions of anger.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

When women and men express anger at work, they receive different evaluations of status, competence, leadership effectiveness.
Both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals, regardless of the actual occupational rank, reported Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann of HEC Paris School of Management.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Negative evaluation of women who express anger was consistent across role statuses, from female CEOs to female trainees.
In contrast, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Similarly, women who express anger and sadness were rated as less effective than women who expressed no emotion, found Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.
Men who expressed sadness received lower effectiveness ratings than those who expressed in neutral emotions.

Observers attribute different motivations and causes to anger expressions by women and men.
Women’s angry emotional reactions were attributed to stable internal characteristics such as “she is an angry person,” and “she is out of control,” in Brescoll’s and Uhlmann’s research.
In contrast, men’s angry reactions were attributed to changeable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

Ginka Toegel

Ginka Toegel

Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson

These differing evaluations are related to societal norms and expectations for women to regulate anger expressions, suggested Fairfield University’ s Donald Gibson and Ronda Callister of Utah State University.

Women may buffer the status-lowering, competence-eroding, and dislike-provoking consequences of anger at work by:

Rhonda Callister

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for people who express anger in the workplace?

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“Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

“Feminine charm” was once one of the few available negotiation tactics for women, as portrayed in novels by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, and George Eliot.

Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that she used “charm” in negotiations with heads of state, inspiring University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray and Alex Van Zant with Connson Locke of London School of Economics to investigate “feminine charm” in negotiation situations.

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Laura Kray

They found that “the aim of feminine charm is to make an interaction partner feel good as a way of gaining compliance.
“Charm” is characterized by:

  • Friendliness, or concern for the other person,
  • Flirtation, or concern for self and self-presentation.

Hannah Riley Bowles

They found that “feminine charm” (friendliness plus flirtation) partially buffered the social penalties (“backlash”) against women’s efforts to negotiate, identified by Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and her colleagues.

Linda Babcock

Women who were perceived as flirtatious achieved superior economic deals in negotiations compared with women who were seen as friendly. This finding validates Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock’s discovery that women achieve better negotiation outcomes when they combine power tactics with warmth.

Their findings expose “a financial risk associated with female friendliness:…the resulting division of resources may be unfavorable if she is perceived as ‘too nice’.”

-*How do you mitigate the “financial risk associated with female friendliness”?

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Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Power is the central regulator of human interaction…because it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful,” wrote Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after initial unsuccessful interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” to remind herself of a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously unsuccessful attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Galinsky empirically investigated whether feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, as in Gino’s anecdotal case.

Collaborating with David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University, they asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

Independent judges, who were unaware of the different instructions, rated “applicant’s” written and face-to-face interview performance.
Evaluators assigned highest scores to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges preferred power-primed applicants, citing their greater persuasiveness and confidence.
These candidates received more offers of job roles and business school admission than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who wrote about situations unrelated to feelings of power and powerlessness.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post highlighted Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that recalling an experience of personal power can influence impressions of persuasiveness, competence, and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and optimism when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?

-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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Career Advancement as Contest – Tournament and How to Win

Olivia Mandy O'Neill

Olivia Mandy O’Neill

If you work in an organization, you gave tacit agreement to participate in a Workplace Tournament, according to (Olivia) Mandy O’Neill of Wharton and Charles O’Reilly of Stanford.
They contend that careers unfold as a series of tournaments in which employees at lower levels compete with each other for career advancement.

Charles O'Reilly

Charles O’Reilly

The prevalence of implicit workplace contests was validated in O’Reilly’s study of executive pay with University of Edinburgh’s Brian G M Main and James Wade, now of Emory University.

Brian G.M. Main

Brian G.M. Main

“Winners” in the contest for advancement shared two characteristics in O’Neill and O’Reilly’s study MBA graduates’ incomes over an eight-year period.

James Wade

James Wade

Those with highest incomes four years after graduation said they preferred “masculine” organizational culture, and this relationship was stronger for women than men.

Eight years after graduation, men’s salaries were significantly higher than women’s, attributable to the greater number of hours men worked per week.
During this period, many women MBA graduates took time off or reduced the number of hours work to care for relatives, reducing the average number of hours worked.

One non-MBA mother whose income did not suffer is Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo.
In 2012, she took two weeks for parental leave, and her total compensation for the year was USD $36.6 Million.

Phyllis Tharenou

Phyllis Tharenou

Organizational hierarchies dominated by men were preferred by high-earners, and were associated with women advancing less frequently into lower and middle management, according to Phyllis Tharenou of Flinders University.

Employees with managerial aspirations and masculine preferences were more likely to advance in management roles, she found.
However, these effects were offset by “career encouragement” such as mentoring and structured career development programs.

Denise Conroy

Denise Conroy

With Denise Conroy of Queensland Technology University, Tharenou studied more than 600 female managers and 600 male managers across six organizational levels.
Women’s and men’s advancement was most closely correlated with workplace development opportunities and organizational structure.
This finding suggests that structural, policy and program changes can increase the number of women in top leadership roles.

Women tend to excel in explicit workplace contests, such as in public sector jobs.
In contrast, women have less experience capitalizing on organizational “sponsorship” by advocates for their advancement.
Taken together, these studies suggest that women can improve opportunities for advancement by:

  • Recognizing that advancement is a tournament,
  • Behaving as a strategic competitor,
  • Communicating interest in advancement,
  • Seeking employment in organizations with formal career advancement programs, mentoring, and development training,
  • Seeking employment in organizations that support flexible work practices and use technology to enable employees to work “anytime, anywhere,”
  • Becoming comfortable operating in “masculine” organizations,
  • Identifying social support inside organizations,
  • Seeking and cultivating advocates and sponsors.

    *How do you manage workplace “tournaments” for career advancement?

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Do You Accept Bad Deals?

Taya Cohen

Taya Cohen

Agreement bias is the tendency to settle in negotiation, even if that decision results in a disadvantageous outcome in business and interpersonal relationships.

During negotiation, participants may enter a “negative bargaining zone,” when their positions and interests greatly diverge.
Skillful negotiators usually end the discussion if it is unlikely to move beyond the “negative bargaining zone.”

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

However, negotiators may accept a disadvantageous deal for several reasons, explained Carnegie Mellon’s Taya Cohen and Leigh Thompson of Northwestern with University of Toronto’s Geoffrey J. Leonardelli.

◦       Sunk Costs: Participants may wish to achieve any resolution, to derive some sense of value for the invested time and effort,

◦       Image: Negotiators may wish to appear likable,

◦       Erroneous Anchoring: People may assume that their interests and the negotiation partner’s are mutually exclusive.
As a result, they may overlook innovative, “integrative” solutions,

◦       Strength in Numbers: Negotiators who are outnumbered by the other negotiation team tend to agree to suboptimal deals.

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Negotiating teams tend to be less susceptible to agreement bias when discussions enter a negative bargaining zone, found Cohen, Thompson, and Leonardelli.

Solo negotiators demonstrated more agreeable behavior, and were more likely to agree to unfavorable conditions.
However, when solo negotiators were joined by only one person, they avoided unfavorable agreements because they accessed additional decision support.

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson

Agreement bias also occurs in anonymous surveys, reported Douglas Jackson, then of Educational Testing Services and Penn State.
This acquiescence bias, is triggered when people agree to survey items, no matter the content.

Samuel Messick

Samuel Messick

Social desirability concern can accelerate agreements in negotiations, surveys, and life, found  Jackson and his  ETS colleague Samuel Messick in a factor analysis of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) items.

Robin Pinkley

Robin Pinkley

Likewise, faulty judgments can lead to unfavorable agreements, noted SMU’s Robin L. Pinkley, Terri L. Griffith of Santa Clara University, and University of Illinois’s Gregory B. Northcraft.

Terri Griffith

Terri Griffith

Pinkley’s group demonstrated ineffective outcomes when negotiators:

  • Accurately processed faulty and incomplete information (information availability errors),
  • Inaccurately process valid or complete information (information processing errors).

Gregory Northcraft

Gregory Northcraft

-*How do you guard against agreeing to bad deals?

-*How do reduce the possibility of Information availability errors and information processing errors?

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Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

Aaron Wallen

Aaron Wallen

Women face significant workplace challenges when they “succeed” in traditionally-male roles, found New York University’s Madeline Heilman, Aaron Wallen, Daniella Fuchs and Melinda Tamkins.

Melinda Tamkins

Melinda Tamkins

The team conducted three experimental studies on volunteers’ reactions to a woman’s success in a male gender-typed job.
They found that when a woman is recognized as successful in roles dominated by men, they are less liked than equally successful men in the same fields.

Tyler Okimoto

Tyler Okimoto

Likewise, successful women managers avoided interpersonal hostility, dislike, and undesirability when they or others conveyed “communal” attributes through their behaviors, testimonials of others, or their role as mothers, found Heilman in a study with University of Queensland’s Tyler Okimoto.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

This competence-likeability disconnect was demonstrated by Stanford’s Frank Flynn in a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen, who was seen as competent but disliked.

Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen

He and collaborator Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley changed Heidi’s name to “Howard Roizen” for half of the students.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

Participants who read the Heidi case and the Howard case rated each on perceived competence and likability.

Heidi was rated as equally highly competent and effective as Howard, but unlikeable and selfish.
Most participants said they wouldn’t want to hire her or work with her.

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

A more recent example of backlash toward high-profile, accomplished women was illustrated in social media mentions of Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter,

Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund) and her colleague Lisa Joy Rosner evaluated Brand Passion Index” (BPI) for Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter over 12 months by:

  • Activity (number of media mentions),
  • Sentiment (positive or negative emotional tone),
  • Intensity (strong or weak sentiment).

Public Opinion-Mayer-Sandberg-SlaughterThese competent, well-known women were not liked, and were evaluated with harsh negative attributions based on media coverage and at-a-distance observations:

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s former CEO, was described as impressive and super-smart, and annoying, a terrible bully,
  • Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s was characterized as truly excellent, successful working mom and crazy bizarre,
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, was depicted as an amazing, successful mother and destructive, not a good wife,
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

The competence-likeability dilemma is also apparent in hiring behavior, demonstrated in experiments by Rutgers University’s Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.

Volunteers made “hiring decisions” for male and female “candidates” competing for a “feminized” managerial role and a “masculinized” managerial role.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

Applicants were presented as:

  • Agentic” (demonstrating stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • Communal” (displaying stereotypically female behaviors) or
  • Androgynous” (combining stereotypically male and female behaviors).

Women who displayed “masculine, agentic” traits were viewed as less socially acceptable  and were not selected for the “feminized” job.
However, this hiring bias did not occur when agentic women applied for the “male” job.

Niceness was not rewarded when competing for jobs:  Both male and female “communal” applicants received low hiring ratings.
However, combining niceness with agency seemed to buffer “androgynous” female applicants from discrimination in the simulated hiring process.

Rudman and Glick noted that “… women must present themselves as agentic to be hirable, but may therefore be seen as interpersonally deficient.”
They advised women to “temper their agency with niceness.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Once women receive job offers, the competence-likeability disconnect continues when they negotiate for salary and position, reported by Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon.
Her research demonstrated and replicated negative evaluations of women who negotiate for salaries using the same script as men.

Deborah Gruenfeld

The likeability-competence dilemma may result from women’s challenges in integrating expansive, powerful body language with more submissive, appeasing behavior to build relationships and acknowledge others’ authority, suggested Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld.

She posited that many women have been socialized to adopt less powerful body positions and body language including:

  • Smiling,
  • Nodding,
  • Tilting the head,
  • Applying fleeting eye contact,
  • Speaking in sentence fragments with uncertain, rising intonation at sentence endings.

In addition, many people expect women to behave in these ways, and negatively evaluate behaviors that differ from expectations.

Body language is the greatest contributor to split-second judgments (less than 100 milliseconds) of people’s competence, according to Gruenfeld.
She estimated that body language is responsible for about 55% of judgments, whereas self-presentation accounts for 38%, and words for just 7%.

Her earlier work considered the impact of body language on assessments of power, whereas her more recent work investigated gender differences in attributions of competence and likability.

The likeability-competence conflict may be reduced by shifting from taking up physical space when demonstrating competence and authority.
Powerful body language may be risky for women unless counterbalanced with giving up physical space to convey approachability, empathy, and likeability, she noted.

Posing in more powerful positions for as little as two minutes can change levels of testosterone, a marker of dominance, just as holding a submissive posture for the same time can increase cortisol levels, signaling stress, according to Gruenfeld.
She suggested that women practice “the mechanics of powerful body language.”

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Women’s competence-likeability dilemma is not mitigated by achieving workplace success and status.
University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale, Benson Rosen, Carol Xu, Iryna Merideth found that successful women and men are judged more harshly for mistakes than lower status individuals who make identical errors.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Fragale’s team found that observers attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers than the identical actions of low status wrongdoers.
Volunteers also recommended more severe punishments for higher status individuals in two experiments.

Iryna Meridith

Iryna Meridith

The team found preventive and reparative value in when women display warmth and likability.
Wrongdoers who demonstrated affiliative concern for others, charitable giving, and interpersonal warmth built goodwill that could protect from subsequent mistakes.

-*How do you convey both likeability and competence?

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