Study: Men are more likely to lash out at work because of gender challenges

PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) – New to research from Oregon State University found that men were more likely than women to react negatively to sexist threats in the workplace.

According to the findings, published in January 2022 in the Organizational behavior and human decision-making processes newspaper, male employees were more likely than their female counterparts to lie, cheat or steal at work when they felt their gender identity had been challenged.

Keith Leavitt of Oregon State University, who was lead author of the publication, “Fragile or robust? Differential Effects of Gendered Threats in the Workplace for Men and Women,” said in addition to ranting, men also became less willing to help in work scenarios when they perceived their gender had been threatens.

As Professor of Management and Associate Dean for Research at OSU College of BusinessLeavitt said the research is timely because the role of traditional masculinity in professional spaces has recently been challenged in political and social spheres.

“The public has rightfully called out companies where sisterhood-like cultures have created terrible workplaces for female employees,” Leavitt said in an OSU statement. “This research gives us a more nuanced understanding of what actually triggers some of these problematic behaviors in men.”

According to Leavitt, the results of the study, which showed that men often react to gender-related threats by reasserting their dominance or trying to outdo themselves, are consistent with findings found in previous research.

In an OSU article, he said, “Throughout time and in many cultures, manhood has been treated as a status to be earned and maintained, while womanhood is generally seen as stable. For men, normative gender behaviors tend to focus on individual power, such as being assertive or striving for success. For women, gendered behaviors can include being sensitive or serving others.

In an effort to better understand the dynamics between men’s and women’s responses to gender-related threats and the relationship to deviant behaviors in the workplace, Leavitt and her team conducted three studies.

The first study, which asked 186 participants of mixed gender and occupations to complete a questionnaire regarding sexist threats in the workplace, found that those who reported a perceived sexual threat at work were significantly more likely to adopt a Negative work behavior – and reactions were highest among men.

The second study randomly assigned 194 participants to write about a mundane activity or a time when they felt their gender identity had been challenged. The subjects were then immediately invited to participate in a negotiation activity. The results of this study showed that men who were asked to write about perceived gender threats were the most likely to be assertive in the negotiation exercise.

The third and final study evaluated 131 employees who worked in the same manufacturing facility over six workdays. At the start of the day, employees were randomly given the same writing prompt from the second study, before performing their work tasks. They were then asked to record their positive and negative work behaviors at the end of their shift.

Research conducted by the final study suggested that male employees were more likely to engage in negative behaviors and less likely to help on days when they believed their gender status had been challenged by the prompt.

This trend was not true for participating employees.

“We found that for men, gender-related threats erode their sense of autonomy, which motivates them to behave in ways that demonstrate their independence from rules and others,” the co said. – study author and associate professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, Lei “Luke” Zhu.

He continued, “In contrast, because femininity is typically associated with communal behavior in organizations, women’s gender position at work does not affect their perceived ability to behave autonomously.”

According to Leavitt, the growing debate on topics such as “toxic masculinity” or “mansplaining” could potentially fuel gender divisions in the workplace and lead to increased gendered threats against men.

“As a society, we need to normalize a broader, healthier conceptualization of manhood, because the behaviors that have historically maintained male status are not conducive to collaborative workplaces,” Leavitt explained. “Furthermore, instead of casually using labels such as toxic masculinity, which imply that these issues are endemic to manhood, we may be able to better address these issues by focusing on specific toxic behaviors such as sexual harassment or hyper-competition without creating gender threats among men and triggering subsequent negative reactions.

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