September 09, 2008

Female bosses cause distress to female (but not male) employees

This paper shows that women with a female supervisor or female/male supervisors suffer distress and ill health. Men, on the other hand fare best when they have a female/male supervisor team. Feel free to post your own horror stories from the workplace.

Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Volume 49, Number 3, September 2008 , pp. 286-300(15)

Relational Demography in the Workplace and Health: An Analysis of Gender and the Subordinate-Superordinate Role-Set

Schieman, Scott; McMullen, Taralyn


Using data from a 2005 national survey of working adults in the United States, we examine the effects of the gender composition of the superordinate-subordinate role-set on mental and physical health measures. Subordinates' and superordinates' genders are important determinants. Men who work in gender-mixed superordinate contexts (i.e., with one male and one female superior) report lower levels of distress and physical symptoms than men who work with one male superior. Women who work with one male superior report less distress and fewer physical symptoms compared to women who work with one female superior or in gender-mixed superordinate contexts. With a few exceptions, these observations generally hold net of occupation, job sector, and an array of work-related conditions. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of predictions derived from the similarity-attraction and role congruity theories. We also outline ways that theoretical development in relational demography can be refined by a more specific focus on the demographic characteristics—especially gender—of the superordinate-subordinate role-set.


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