A new study finds that your boss' gender can affect just how much pain he or she seems to inflict.
Bosses in general can be a pain in the ... well, you know, but a new study finds that your boss' gender can affect just how much pain he or she seems to inflict.
Researchers at the University of Toronto used data from a 2005 national telephone survey of working adults in the United States and compared the stress levels and physical health problems of men and women working in one of three situations: for a lone male supervisor, a lone female supervisor, or for both a male and female supervisor.
The study found that:
* Women who had only one female boss reported more psychological distress (such as trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on work, depression and anxiety) and physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomach pain or heartburn, neck and back pain and tiredness) than women who worked for one male boss.
* Women who reported to a mixed-gender pair of supervisors also reported more of these symptoms than their peers who worked for a single male boss.
* Men who worked for a single supervisor, regardless of the supervisor's gender, had similar levels of distress. Men who worked for a mixed-gender pair had fewer mental and physical symptoms than those working for a lone male supervisor.
The analysis, detailed in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, controlled for occupation, job sector and other workplace conditions, meaning the results were independent of these factors.
The findings, specifically those of female subordinates with females bosses, contradict theories suggested by previous studies that demographic similarities between a boss and their subordinate would promote harmony in the work place, while demographic differences would create problems.
The researchers speculated that these contradictions may stem from the stereotype that it is more "normal" for men to be leaders and display the typical leadership characteristics. So while female subordinates may expect more "aggressive" traits from a male leader, they could expect more support from a supervisor who is also female than they actually get, said study co-author Scott Schieman.
Women leaders who "act like men" in terms of society's unconscious expectations may be viewed more negatively, Schieman said. He and other sociologists suspect this was a situation faced by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary races.