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Stressed? Blame it on the boss’s gender

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Your boss’s gender can affect just how much pain he or she seems to inflict.

Researchers at the University of Toronto compared men and women working in one of three situations: (1) for a lone male supervisor, (2) for a lone female supervisor, or (3) for both a male and a female supervisor.

The research team then measured who had the most stress symptoms (i.e., headaches, stomach pain or heartburn, neck and back pain, and fatigue) and psychological distress (i.e., trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on work, depression and anxiety).

Here’s what they found:

  • Women who worked for one female boss had more psychological and physical symptoms 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 one male boss.
  • Men who worked for one 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.

Why the disparity? Researchers weren’t certain, though they speculated that it may stem from the stereotype that it’s more “normal” for men to display leadership characteristics. Women who show these same traits or who “act like men” may be viewed more negatively.

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