Female and Male Coworkers: Masculinity, Sexism, and Interpersonal Competence at Work


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Abstract

Historically, adherence to traditional cultural expectations of masculinity in the workplace, displayed via competitive, aggressive, or controlling behaviors, has been rewarded with increased social influence and perceptions of professional capabilities. However, changing work environments increasingly emphasize teams that require competence in interpersonal interactions. Men who strongly endorse traditional masculinity ideology might perceive themselves as less competent in these interpersonal domains; furthermore, the relationships between men’s endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology and their perceived interpersonal competence with work colleagues might vary based on the gender of those colleagues. The relationships between endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology and perceived interpersonal competence might also be mediated by specific benevolent sexist beliefs. The current study examined how the endorsement of traditional masculinity directly and indirectly (via sexist beliefs) relates to perceived interpersonal competencies with coworkers and whether the gender of the coworker moderates those relationships. In a sample of 194 employed men (175 who self-reported as White; 166 who reported as heterosexual), coworker gender moderated the relationship between endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology and competence in negative assertion, but not managing conflict or providing emotional support. Moderated mediation analyses indicated that coworker gender moderated the indirect relationship between endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology and emotional support and conflict management. Men who more strongly endorsed a traditional masculinity ideology perceived they were more interpersonally competent with female coworkers/less competent with male coworkers. Limitations and implications for addressing gendered role norms in the workplace are discussed.

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