Workplace Communication; Female Leadership; Subordinates
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The number of female managers in American companies has been increasing with female management making up 63.4% of S&P 500 companies (Catalyst 2018). Female leaders have traditionally been at a disadvantage by social norms that surround masculine corporate America. Women have often been categorized as communal leaders that focus on the collective efforts of the team they manage (Eagly 1987). They communicate using interpersonally-oriented dimensions including collaboration, relationship building and information sharing as well (Appelbaum et.al 2013). Male leadership and communication styles, on the other hand, have been mentally associated with agentic qualities such as being aggressive and having results oriented outcomes (Eagly 1987). The current body of research asserts that women often face a “double bind” situation where if they act more agentic, than they are considered aggressive and often disliked and if they act communally they are not viewed as an effective leader (Northouse, 2004; Eagly & Carly, 2007). Looking exclusively at the perceptions of women leaders who manage male and female employees, this qualitative study tries to understand the perceptions that male and female employees have of their female boss’s leadership and communication styles. The researcher interviewed 5 triads (N=15) using a grounded-theory approach and semi-structured interviews. The results of this research study suggest that while male and female subordinates positively viewed their female bosses as effective leaders with open communication styles, the attributes used to evaluate their leadership and communication styles differed. Male subordinates applied more agentic characteristics to assess female leaders while female subordinates applied more communal attributes.