Battle of the Sexes: Are Women More Self-Conscious in the Office Than Men?

Researchers say caring a bit too much about perception can be damaging

(Image: Thinkstock)

Who’s more concerned about winning the popularity contest at work? Apparently women are. Recent studies show that women are much more likely than men to care about what their colleagues think of them.

A study by researchers in Canada, Spain and France examined 221 MBA students who each had more than six years of work experience. The research discovered that women more quickly and rationally aligned their self-awareness with the way their peers viewed them, while men continued to rationalize and inflate their self-image over time.

When asked to rate themselves on key leadership skills, both men and women initially rated themselves higher on each trait than did their peers. However, over the course of six months, women’s self-assessments dropped more steeply than did men’s. By the end, women’s self-perceptions had essentially converged with their peer’s ratings.

The researchers believe the results show women close the gap between self- and peers’ ratings faster than men, exhibiting more sensitivity to social cues.

According to one of the researchers, professor Margarita Mayo, worrying about what your coworkers think of you is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, being overly self-conscious can lead to negative thinking and doubts about work ability. However, to some degree, it’s healthy to be concerned about what others think of you. “Aligning [women’s] self-image to reflect what others think of them represents an advance in self-awareness, which is a big step in leadership development,” Mayo says.

“Likewise men’s overestimation of their leadership abilities can have both positive and negative consequences,” Mayo adds. “Preserving their sense of personal efficacy in the face of negative feedback can help them take on new challenges; yet, persistently ignoring the plain message of others is hardly a prescription for success over the long haul.”

Do you care what your coworkers think about you? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.

ACROSS THE WEB