Conflict Style Could Impact Gender Pay-Gap As More Women Are Co-Operative Than Assertive During Conflict

Career Climbers / 9th March 2020

Conflict style may be related to the ‘glass ceiling’ problem. This is according to a study from The Myers-Briggs Company, a leading business psychology organisation which reveals that women are more likely to deal with conflict cooperatively, affecting their under-representation in senior leadership positions and salary negotiation.

The Myers-Briggs Company analysed data from 462,883 people who completed the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Modes Instrument (TKI) online between 2004 and 2019 to look at the use of different conflict modes by organisational level and gender. The TKI is a tool developed to measure an individual’s way of dealing with conflict.

The results revealed that men are more likely to use an assertive mode to deal with conflict than women. This means when push comes to shove, women are less likely to assert their own needs and are more likely to seek to meet the needs of others which could mean they get disadvantaged when negotiating their salary.

At senior positions, both men and women are more likely to deal with conflict assertively. This plays a part in how leaders are seen by others. If men and those in higher leadership positions tend to use a more assertive conflict style, those with cooperative styles aren’t as likely to be seen as ‘leadership material’, even though research suggests that these leadership styles more often used by women are likely to be very effective.

Commenting on the findings, Nikhita Blackburn, a business psychologist at The Myers-Briggs Company, said:

“Differences in conflict style may help explain different approaches to disagreement and negotiating in men and women and across organisational levels, as people tend to have an instinctive response to conflict. Looking at further research from ADP, a global payroll provider, British employees are running out of patience with the gender pay gap as over two-thirds of employees (68%) say that they would consider looking for another job if they found out there was an unfair gender pay gap at their organisation. Businesses must make room for educating those who make decisions about salary so they can recognise the effect of conflict styles and reduce unintentional bias towards those with a more assertive style – and avoid losing their valued workforce.”

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