Women tougher than men on colleagues of same sex
WOMEN are less tolerant of female colleagues than men are of other males in the workplace, according to a study.
While men show more understanding and empathy towards workmates of the same sex, the research suggests women will quickly form a negative opinion of female peers who make a mistake or underperform.
The study, published in the US journal Psychological Science, dismisses the traditional view that women are more social and co-operative than their male counterparts.
The team from Emmanuel College in Boston found that men maintained larger social networks with other males compared with women, and tended to have longer-lasting friendships with members of the same sex than women did.
The researchers, led by Professor Joyce Benenson, associate professor of psychology, set out to compare men and women's tolerance levels towards people of the same sex.
They asked male and female college students to complete surveys about their relationship with their roommates.
In a separate experiment, participants read a story in which someone's best friend was described as completely reliable until they broke a promise.
After reading the story, the participants were asked to judge the best friend's reliability.
The findings revealed men were much more tolerant than women of unrelated individuals of the same sex. The men in the study rated their roommates as being more satisfactory and less bothersome than females did.
In addition, the researchers found women were more likely to switch to a new roommate than men were. The results of the final experiment, in which participants judged a single act of negative behaviour of a previously reliable friend, showed that women downgraded the best friend's reliability significantly more than men.
The authors conclude that gender differences in tolerance may be based on the different functions and expectations that same-sex friendships have for men and women.
They add: "Women may simply weight negative information more heavily than men do, because negative information disrupts the establishment of intimacy, which serves a more important function in same-sex relationships for women than for men."
Toni Eastwood, the training director for everywoman, a service provider for female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, said: "We see the opposite to what has been said in this study.
"Women gain enormous benefit from working together and motivating one another.
"Women tend to look to work in harmony, and they form relationships at every level in a workplace."
Dianah Worman, a diversity adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "There are an awful lot of extremely complex issues about why women may not help one another.
"This research may raise some hackles, but it deserves our interest."
Back-stabbing, gossip and jealousy alive and well
THE idea that women are less inclined to help colleagues of their own gender has taken hold in recent years.
American journalist Nan Mooney has written a book on the subject, based on her personal experiences and those of more than 100 other women.
I Can't Believe She Did That! Why Women Betray Other Women at Work suggests women often shy away from direct conflict, and instead engage in unhealthy forms of competition, such as talking behind one another's backs, or sabotaging other's success. One contributor to the book, a publishing executive, writes of her feelings of resentment when a woman called Ursula joined her otherwise all-male office.
The contributor, who calls herself Rachel, writes: "She'd show up wearing motorcycle boots, a miniskirt and dark purple lipstick. She even looked good with a hangover."
"I felt really weird about not wanting Ursula around. I consider myself an enlightened, educated feminist and would like to think I'd be the first to give another talented woman an opportunity to succeed."
Others complained about female colleagues who flirted incessantly or ignored every other woman.
Another contributor complained that her female boss only promoted inexperienced men even though the office was mainly female.
Previous research on the subject has found that more women would rather work for a male boss than another woman.
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