A new study strengthens the theory that men often feel threatened when they have female bosses — so much so that they respond aggressively.
Men pushed for bigger salaries when negotiating with a woman, and while they were happy to offer the lion's share of a bonus to a male boss, they were far less generous to a female supervisor.
The findings add to an already large body of evidence supporting the idea that men, in general, don't like being bossed around by women, says Ekaterina Netchaeva, an assistant professor of management and technology at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, who led the study.
That's important to understand as women take on more and more management positions, Netchaeva and colleagues write in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"Even men who support gender equality may see these advances as a threat to their masculinity, whether they consciously acknowledge it or not," Netchaeva said.
"Precarious manhood theory postulates that manhood is 'elusive' and 'tenuous'. In other words, manhood is not something that is guaranteed to be achieved with age, nor is it guaranteed to remain. Instead, men must continuously prove their manhood."
The findings have big real-world implications, Netchaeva said. "The ideal woman is not perceived as having what it takes for a leadership role," her team wrote. "Indeed, research suggests that the mere indication that a female leader is successful in her position leads to increased ratings of her selfishness, deceitfulness, and coldness."
"In an ideal world, men and organizations would be concerned by these findings and adjust their behavior accordingly. But if they don't, where does that leave women?" Netchaeva said. "Given the strong societal norms surrounding masculinity, it may be difficult for men to recognize or change their behavior."
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