Warning to women readers: This story may make you really annoyed. New research out of Yale University suggests that the quieter women are in the workplace, the more likely they are to be perceived as competent. And the opposite is true for men.
"When men talk a lot and they have power, people want to reward them either by hiring them, voting for them, or just giving them more power and responsibility at work," lead researcher Victoria Brescoll, a management professor, said in a statement. "But when women do it, they are seen as being too domineering, too presumptuous. Women perceive this, and that's why they temper how much they talk."
The research involved asking 156 subjects to read an article about a fictional chief executive. Those taking part were then told that the executive was either a talkative man, quiet man, talkative woman or quiet woman. They were then asked to rate the executive's competence on a seven-point scale.
Even though the conditions were exactly the same, the talkative woman was ranked on average at 4.83, while her garrulous male counterpart was given an average ranking of 5.64. (The results were flipped for shy types of both genders: 5.62 on average for quiet women, 5.11 for quiet men.)
The results have already provoked some anger. In speaking to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, relationships expert Jean Hannah Edelstein said the findings showed there "were still idiotic, negative associations with women who are outspoken as being 'nags.' "
She went on to interpret the findings as a call to arms to address sexism in the workplace.
"Maybe the findings here are less about whether women talk more or less at work and more about an overarching lack of respect for women in leadership positions."
Other studies indicate that being quiet can benefit a career -- whether you're a woman or a man. A slew of research released over the past few months has emphasized the power of introversion in the workplace. Adam Grant, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, sent questionnaires to workers and managers at 130 pizza delivery franchises. He found that too many loudmouths can hamper workplace productivity by creating friction, and that an introverted supervisor is more successful at bringing out the best in ambitious workers.
"Because extroverted leaders like to be the center of attention, they tend to be threatened by employee proactivity," Grant notes. "Introverted leaders, on the other hand, are more likely to listen carefully to suggestions and support employees' efforts to be proactive."
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