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Unequal raises, best bosses and weakest links: The week in leadership research

(Washington Post photo illustration/BigStock photo)

Women may not ask, but bosses don’t offer: We’ve all heard it before: Women don’t ask. This common explanation for the so-called “gender gap” says one reason women don’t make as much as men is because they simply don’t negotiate. But new research from Maura Belliveau, an associate professor at Long Island University Post’s College of Management, shows that women start out with a disadvantage before any negotiation can even take place. In research published in the July/August issue of Organization Science, Belliveau describes the results of an experiment she ran with 184 male and female managers, all of whom had experience allocating raises. They were asked to role-play the allocation of raises at a time when financial difficulties limited the pool of funds available. (Sound familiar?)

When managers were told they could not explain the reasons for the size of the raise they could give, they gave out raises to male and female “employees” in roughly equal amounts. But when they could explain the raise, they gave out 71 percent of the raise pool to men while allocating just 29 percent of it to women. “Managers ensured that men did not need to negotiate to obtain a good raise,” Belliveau said in a release about her research. “In contrast, managers’ raise decisions put women who performed at the same level as men in a position where they would not only need to negotiate to obtain a reasonable raise, but would also have to do so from the starting point of a ‘lowball’ amount.”

Why the best bosses have high EQ, not IQs: We may not be able to choose our parents, but we can choose our bosses, even if the choices are much slimmer in tough economic times. Researchers from University College London and Westminster Business School at the University of Westminster, London, set out to figure out what characteristics, then, make the ideal boss. In a recent paper in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (hat tip to the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog), the researchers asked 167 participants to rank-order 16 hypothetical bosses based on their sex, their age and their scores on both emotional intelligence (EQ) and standard IQ tests. While there was no significant preference for gender or age, participants leaned heavily toward the bosses with high EQ and IQ scores, with EQ being the biggest factor. Results also showed that participants favored young male bosses and older female managers versus older men and younger women.

And just in time for the Olympics…comes a reminder of how teams can help elevate some people’s performance. Research by Deborah Feltz and Kaitlynn Osborn of Michigan State University finds that less capable athletes perform better when they are part of a relay team. The study, in the current edition of the journal Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology , looked at archived data from college and high-school swimming and track & field teams. It found that the weakest athletes showed the greatest gains when they were part of a team. (The best performers, meanwhile, did tend to be slower in relays than when they performed on their own, but not by statistically significant levels.) Also interesting: Women performed better when they were viewed as being indispensable members of the team, while men were more motivated by comparisons to their competitors. Whether or not such research carries over to the workplace, Feltz and Osborn’s research is at the very least a reminder to leaders of the value of strong teams when it comes to dealing with weak links.

More from On Leadership:

Pulling off the Olympics

Lenovo CEO is sharing the wealth, literally

How to completely destroy an employee’s work life

View Photo Gallery: A look at author Stephen Covey’s “habits” through the prism of seven successful leaders.

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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