There’s a seemingly endless list of ways that men get an unfair advantage at work.
Identical resumes get more interviews if they have a man’s name rather than a woman’s name. Women are far more likely to be interrupted in meetings and even when heard out, their inputs are more likely to be ignored.
In general, women must work harder and smarter to do as well in business as the average man.
However, according to a recent study conducted at University of Arizona Eller College of Management, there is one negotiating tactic that only women can use during performance reviews, without paying a huge career penalty.
That tactic? Weeping.
For the study participants were shown videos of negative performance reviews, in some of which the employee wept. The participants were then asked to write an employee review, assess the candidate’s leadership ability and write a letter of recommendation.
The study revealed that
“Men who cried during negative reviews were more likely to experience negatively biased outcomes on their performance evaluations, perceived leadership capabilities and written recommendations.
When a woman receiving a negative evaluation cried, it did not have a significant impact on her perceived performance or leadership capability or her written recommendations.”
While the study didn’t address the gender of the participants, there’s ample evidence that men react differently from women when a woman cries in front of them. According to a study from the Weizmann Institute of Science, cited in Time magazine:
“Men may be biologically primed to react to a woman’s tears. Even a whiff of these tears can dramatically reduce men’s testosterone levels.”
Since testosterone creates aggressive behavior, men are biologically programmed to “back off” when confronted with a woman’s tears. For men, according to psychologist Kylie Coulter, “The big instinct here is to stop her crying and make her feel better.”
By contrast, when a man sees another man crying, it apparently has the opposite effect: an increase in testosterone and an urge to “kick him when he’s down.” At the very least, a man who cries in public (about work) tends to lose the respect of other men.
I have personally seen this dynamic at work during meetings. I’ve several times seen women shed tears of frustration and anger; the reaction to the room is usually to wait until she recovers her poise.
By contrast, the only time I can remember seeing a man cry during a meeting, the boss (who admittedly was a world-class sphincter) said something like: “For Christ’s sake, don’t be such a !#$&! wuss.”
Of course, it could be argued that crying during a performance review (or other negotiation) is an emotional response rather than a tactic. Be that as it may, it’s a emotional response that women are permitted but which men are not.
As Daphna Motro, co-author of the University of Arizona study, points out:
“The overwhelming majority of research in the field of gender and diversity has focused on sexism in one direction – sexism that contributes to the plight of women. While there may be fewer situations where men experience sexism, they do exist, as indicated by our results. We need to acknowledge that gender bias can harm men just as it can harm women.”
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