…So much has been written about women’s tendency to negotiate less vigorously for their salaries than their male peers. There is really nothing significant I can add to the dialogue here, and in today’s post I don’t aspire to try.
With that said, I recently reviewed the results of an interesting study (here) from researchers Timothy A. Judge, Beth A. Livingston, and Charlice Hurst examining the effects of disagreeableness on income. The study found “that low levels of agreeableness at work are associated with better job-related outcomes.” with agreeableness being defined as “…the level to which a person displays trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness.”
That a moderate level of disagreeableness is associated with better job outcomes is not in and of itself surprising. As the old saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.“ Perhaps more surprising, however, were the following findings (bolded emphasis mine):
The pay gap between agreeable and disagreeable males is significantly larger than the gap between agreeable and disagreeable females. That is, there is a “benefit” of being (moderately) disagreeable as a male, but this “benefit” is minimal for females.
and then there’s:
…Males are expected to exhibit masculine qualities, including disagreeableness. Females are expected to exhibit feminine qualities, including agreeableness. When one gender defies such stereotypes, the employee can be perceived as deviant.
One way of looking at the results of this study is to determine that the heavy penalties males incur at work for not displaying a moderate level of disagreeableness makes such behavior a necessity for them. Conversely, perhaps just as powerful is the takeaway that being disagreeable has almost no benefits for females. Women are being advised to be more spirited negotiators, but studies like these make me wonder how well their efforts are being received when they do so. As a society, are we simply more predisposed to favorably receiving disagreeable behavior from men?
…Maybe, and maybe not. A big caveat with this study is that it draws from several different data sources, one of which (study 4) took place in relatively controlled conditions, and another of which (study 3) took place in 1992 and 1993 – a lifetime away from Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and society’s greater understanding of the role that gender plays in defining social norms and attitudes. Again, you can read the study here and decide for yourself, but it’s possible that the results speak to a time we simply no longer live in.
With that said, what has your experience been in the workplace? Is disagreeableness – around salary or any other topic – as well received from women as it is from men?
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.