"I'm Sorry" Works Better for Men, Than for Women

You're probably not old enough to remember this movie, where the guy says to the girl, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." 

Which, in my life, is totally the opposite.  I'm always having to say "I'm sorry," when my husband and I fight (he's very stubborn). 

But a new study says that saying sorry is not enough, especially when you're talking gender stereotypes.  Say what?

"Whether it's a boss, co-worker or the public, saying sorry is not always enough to win back broken trust, especially when gender stereotypes are also broken. Both have happened with Clinton and Trump in the last few months," says Shayna Frawley, PhD candidate in human resource management at York U who led the study with York U alumna Jennifer Harrison, now at NEOMA Business School in France, at newswise.com.

Gender stereotypes continue to be an issue in the workplace and on the campaign trail. Women are still expected to be benevolent and concerned about others, while men are perceived to be confident, competitive and independent. When either gender goes against those preconceived notions and also lose the trust of their colleagues or bosses, they'll experience a double backlash.

"With the Hilary Clinton email scandal, her critics were claiming she put national security at risk for her own convenience, putting her own needs ahead of her responsibility as a public official. This is a clear example of breaking trust and gender expectations," said Frawley.


In the workplace, if a woman violates trust while putting her own interests ahead of others, for example by being dishonest or not helping a co-worker, she will find regaining that lost trust much more challenging because she went against gender stereotypes. "Had she not broken gender stereotypes and instead just broke the trust by under-performing, she would have fared better," adds another researcher.

A man who fails to put others ahead of himself, however, will only face consequences for a breach of trust. That's because men are not expected to help others. Lying or refusing to help a co-worker doesn't affect those expectations. A man will also face the same double backlash if he performs poorly though. In this case, he will have violated the trust placed in him, but also will have gone against gender expectations that men are good performers.

Just like I thought.  We always have to be the bigger ones! 

Trump faced this double backlash when his critics pointed to a string of failed business ventures and his inability to raise campaign funds. "What these claims are trying to get at is that despite Trump's reputation and his connections, he's not performing so well at things that men traditionally are viewed at being good at," says Frawley. "They were saying he can't be trusted to perform well and has in fact misrepresented himself which plays into gender stereotypes."

So how do people go about repairing trust?

For men, do it in a way that is consistent with expectations of what men should be. "One way is to apologize and take personal responsibility for what happened and not blame it on external factors," says Harrison.

However, if a woman violates trust in a way that breaks gender stereotypes, she is better not to apologize, but deny responsibility or blame external factors.

If trust is broken without the breach of gender expectations, both men and women will have an easier time of regaining that trust, according to researchers.



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