Tag Archives: Eric Luis Uhlmann

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

Expressions of anger at work can be triggered by organizational pressures including complex relationships, chronic constraints, high stakes, and factors beyond individual control.

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, now of HEC Paris School of Management.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

This 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, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.
Men who expressed sadness received lower effectiveness ratings than those who expressed in neutral emotions.

Observers also attribute different motivations and “root causes” to anger expressions by women and men.
Women’s angry emotional reactions were attributed to less changeable internal characteristics such as “she is an angry person,” and “she is out of control,” found Brescoll and Uhlmann.
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 and causal attributions 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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Women Who Express Anger Seen as Less Influential

Jessica Salerno

Jessica Salerno

Men who expressed anger were more likely to influence their peers, found Arizona State University’s Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene of University of Illinois in their study of computer-mediated mock jury proceedings.
In contrast, women who expressed anger were seen as less influential, reinforcing trends reported in a previous blog post.

Liana Peter-Hagene

Liana Peter-Hagene

More than 200 U.S. jury-eligible volunteers reviewed opening arguments and closing statements, eyewitness testimonies, crime scene photographs, and an image of the alleged weapon in a homicide.

Participants rendered individual verdict choices, then exchanged instant messages by computer, with “peers” who were said to be deliberating their verdict decisions.

In fact, “peer” messages were scripted, with four of the fictional jurors agreeing with the participant’s verdict, and one disagreeing.
The dissenting participant had a male user name or a female user name or a gender-neutral name.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Half of the dissenting messages contained no emotion, anger, or fear, and these communications had no influence on participants’ opinions.

However, participants’ confidence in their verdict decision significantly dropped when a single “male dissenter” sent angry messages, characterized by “shouting” in all capital letters.
Confidence in the verdict decision dropped even when the vote was shared by the majority of other “jurors,” suggesting the persuasive impact of a single male dissenter’s angry communication.

In contrast, volunteers became more confident in their initial verdict decisions when their vote was echoed by the majority of other participants.

This confidence was not diminished when a single female dissenter responded with angry emotional message, suggesting that “females” anger was less influential.
“Women’s” dissent seemed to reinforce conviction in the shared decision.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals compared with angry male professionals in research by Previously, Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management.
Evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs as well as to female trainees when they expressed anger.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.
Likewise, women who expressed anger and sadness were rated less effective than women who shared no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Evaluators judged men’s angry reactions more generously, attributing these emotional expressions to understandable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

These differing judgments of emotional expression by women suggests that women’s anger is more harshly evaluated because their behaviors deviate from expected societal, gender, and cultural norms.

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for women and men who express anger at work?

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Implicit Discrimination Associated with Meritocratic Beliefs, Low Empathy

Michael Young

Michael Young

Americans more than other nationalities, embrace the idea of meritocracy – that rewards are distributed based on merit, a combination of ability + effort with success, described by University of London’s Michael Young with Sheri Kunovich of Southern Methodist University, and Ohio State’s Kazimierz M. Slomczynski.

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, made headlines when asked his advice for women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
He told more than 12,000 women: “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise … It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Although his response resulted in widespread criticism, he may have been referring to the social penalty women experience when negotiating for salary increases and promotions.

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles with Linda Babcock and Lei Lai of Carnegie Mellon demonstrated this social penalty when they showed volunteers videos of men and women asking for a raise using identical scripts.
Participants agreed to give both genders a pay increase, but evaluated women as “too aggressive” and not someone they would want to work with.
However, men in these salary negotiation situations were seen as “likable.”

Emilio Castilla

Emilio Castilla

The unequal impact of merit-based compensation on minorities was demonstrated in MIT’s Emilio J. Castilla’s analysis of almost 9,000 employees in support roles at a large service-sector company.
The organization espoused commitment to diversity and had implemented a merit-based compensation system intended to reward high-level performance and equitably reward employees.

Lei Lai

Lei Lai

Despite these egalitarian goals, women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees received smaller increases in compensation compared with white men, despite holding the same jobs, having the same performance score, working in the same units for the same supervisors.

These results illustrated what he called the performance-reward bias – the need for minority groups “to work harder and obtain higher performance scores in order to receive similar salary increases to white men.”

Stephen Benard

Stephen Benard

With his Indiana University colleague, Stephen Benard, Castilla uncovered the paradox of meritocracy” – organizations that espouse meritocratic values awarded a larger monetary reward to male employees compared with equally performing female employees.

Despite their positive intentions and policies, these organizations perpetuated unequal evaluations and rewards across equally performing employee groups.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

In fact, people who think they are the most objective exhibited greatest evaluation bias, found Northwestern’s Eric Luis Uhlmann and Geoffrey L. Cohen of University of Colorado.
They attributed this finding to overconfidence in objectivity, leading to lack of self-scrutiny and self-assessment of potential and implicit bias.

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

This bias was also demonstrated when volunteers provided significantly more positive evaluations of resumes were attributed to whites and men than identical resumes linked to minority-group members and women, reported by Yale’s Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham, and Jo Handelsman.

John Dovidio

John Dovidio

Since egalitarian aspirations and performance management systems do not result in equitable reward distribution, MIT’s Castilla advocated increased transparency and accountability by creating a performance-reward committee to monitor compensation increases and to share information about pay segmented by gender, race, and nationality.
Five years after these changes were introduced in companies Castilla studied, he found that the demographic pay gap had disappeared.

Grit Hein

Grit Hein

Another way to reduce bias is to increase empathy, found Universität Bern’s Grit Hein, Jan B. Engelmann of Tinbergen Institute, and University of Zurich’s Philippe N. Tobler, with Marius C. Vollberg of University College London, in their study of 40 young men of Swiss or Balkan descent.

Participants and two research confederates received an electric charge on the back of the hand.
Next, one of the two confederates was attributed a typical Balkan name or a Swiss name, and was designated a “decision maker.”

Jan B. Engelmann

Jan B. Engelmann

Volunteers were then told they would receive “painful shocks,” but the “decision maker” could prevent this “by giving up money he would otherwise earn.”
Participants received help from the other person 15 times out of 20 trials, and received a shock five times.

Two new confederates, one with a Swiss name and one with a Balkan name, replaced the first two and the participant watched as one of them received the painful electrical pulses.
A brain scan measured the volunteers’s level of empathy for the person receiving the shock.

Philippe Tobler

Philippe Tobler

When the confederate with the Balkan minority name “helped” the participant avoid a shock by “sacrificing” a payoff, the volunteer’s brain scans demonstrated increased empathy for both the specific helper, and for other Balkan people.

The team interpreted this finding to suggest, “…empathy with an out-group member can be learned, and generalizes to other out-group individuals.”

If this trend can be replicated in the workplace by increasing organizational and managerial empathy for members of minority groups during the appraisal process, organizational rewards may be more equitably distributed.

-*How do you reduce bias in appraisal and reward processes?

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Role Pioneers May Encounter “The Glass Cliff”

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Holding a role usually occupied by the other gender can lead to significant media coverage, such as Sally Ride’s selection as an astronaut or Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo while in the later stages of her first pregnancy.

However, incumbents of roles usually held by people of the other gender can evoke harsh judgments about competence and suitability for leadership roles, according to Yale’s Victoria Brescoll and Erica Dawson with Eric Luis Uhlmann of HEC Paris.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

This effect was most noticeable when both male and female leaders in “gender-incongruous” roles made minor errors in experimental studies.
Both male and female evaluators judged minor mistakes as indicators of role incompetence when male and female leaders held jobs typically performed by the other gender.

Erica Dawson

Erica Dawson

Brescoll, Dawson and Uhlmann suggested that “gender-incongruous” roles are seen as “ambiguous” by observers, leading to uncertainty, and negative assessments to “restore implicit order.”
The team referred to this rater bias as the “glass cliff effect.”

The researchers concluded that “the high status and senior leadership achieved by both men and women in gender-incongruent roles is fragile, vulnerable and unstable.”

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

This effect may be due to both the role’s gender incongruity and high status.
An earlier blog post highlighted Alison Fragale’s demonstration that higher status individuals are judged more harshly than lower status people when they make the same mistakes.

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Her team at University of North Carolina found that observers in two experiments attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers – and recommended harsher punishment for the same actions that earned lower status people “the benefit of the doubt.”

Although Brescol, Dawson and Uhlmann did not offer recommendations to mitigate the risks of being a pioneer in holding non-traditional job roles, Fragale’s team found that high status wrongdoers could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes by demonstrating, warmth and concern for others and engaging in charitable giving.

Other strategies to consider include:

  • Cultivating strong executive alliances and sponsorship
  • Assembling a risk mitigation team to provide expert messaging during a crisis, focusing on external attributions of the error
  • Balancing demonstrated competence with the “humanness” of a small error
  • Offering plans for future action unrelated to the error to demonstrate decisive leadership and action-orientation.

-*What approaches are most effective to mitigate “The Glass Cliff”?

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

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