Women gain worse reputations than men after work conflict

by |

The old saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” seems to apply to perceptions of women in the workplace – apparently women are perceived more negatively than men  in the aftermath of workplace disputes.

Yet, it’s not the occurrence of conflict which causes problems – most consider at least some level of conflict to be inevitable in high-pressure work environments. Rather, the perception of conflict involving female employees is viewed more negatively than conflicts involving male employees.

According to the study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, women get a bad rap when it comes to workplace disputes because they are viewed to be less likely than male counterparts to repair a frayed relationship after a conflict at work. It was also found that women were equally as likely as men to believe that conflict would affect their job satisfaction. Female employees were also just as likely as men to believe that a work relationship was irreparable following a conflict.

At the core of the issue, may be the stereotype of ‘cattiness’ among women. Leah Sheppard, a Ph.D. candidate who worked on the study commented that negative stereotyping around so-called 'catfights' often carry over into work situations. “Hopefully, our findings will help to increase managers' awareness of this bias, so they don't let stereotypes guide their decisions on how they staff teams and leverage the full talent of female employees,” Sheppard said.

The research polled responses of 152 workers when looking at three conflict scenarios. The paper was published in the journal Academy of Management Perspectives.


HRD Forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions