Little attention has been paid to the role which impression management (IM) of genuine and substantial talents and commitment plays in the careers of female and male managers seeking promotion. IM studies have largely investigated the supervisor/subordinate relationship, often with samples of business students in laboratory settings. In the Cranfield Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders, we have focused on the use of IM by practising managers. In this paper, we examine previous literature for indications that gender may be important in explaining differences in IM behaviours. We then report findings from a survey and a qualitative study, showing that gender, especially combined with age and job level, is a differentiating factor in managers' inclinations to use particular IM behaviours. Many women (and some men too) seem uncomfortable with using IM. Women do not always want to play "the organizational game" by the male-constructed unwritten rules, but prefer to trust good management and systems fairness for just rewards. Younger and junior level women managers often recognize that IM may be a useful tool but reject its use for themselves. Women seem to prefer to rely on extra high performance and commitment for visibility to their seniors rather than the networking, ingratiation and self-promotion strategies used more by males. An important consequence is that as ambitious young males use job-focused IM in addition to self and manager-focused strategies, this is likely to leave young women at a considerable disadvantage for promotion, if the strategies are successful.
Journal of Business Ethics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 10, 2004
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