Agentic-Communal Paradox in Organizations: An Investigation of Gender, Power and Values
Anderson, Meredith E.
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CitationAnderson, Meredith E. 2020. Agentic-Communal Paradox in Organizations: An Investigation of Gender, Power and Values. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis study investigated how males and females at different levels of power prioritize values and construe power in professional settings. Two core drivers of human behavior are agency and communion (Rucker, Galinsky & Macgee, 2018). Agency is correlated with masculinity, self-enhancement values and high power whereas communion is correlated with femininity, self-transcendence values and low power (Schwartz & Rubel, 2005, Trapnell & Paulhus, 2012, Rucker, Galinsky & Dubois, 2012). In the workplace, the double bind illustrates tensions between these structural and social roles: professional women walk the line between being perceived as simultaneously communal (consistent with social and structural roles and values) and agentic (consistent with leadership and high-power roles, but inconsistent with social and structural roles) (Eagly & Karau, 2002). Emerging research in organizational leadership, however, supports blending communal and agentic styles for increased effectiveness among both men and women (Kark, Waismel-Manor & Shamir, 2012). Using quantitative ratings, this study examined whether women and men at different levels of organizational power in the workplace self-report agentic-communal paradox or polarity in 1) values and 2) power construal. It was hypothesized that women would exhibit more paradox at higher levels than other groups. Two 2x3 ANOVAs investigated paradox in values and power construal and a series of one-way ANOVAs compared sub-sets of values and power construal with gender and power levels. As hypothesized, results indicated greater agentic-communal paradox in values at the highest levels of power (compared to the lowest) refuting historical dichotomies. Contrary to predictions, however, these findings were not just among women, but across both genders indicating no difference between men and women. Similarly, when investigating individual values, contrary to predictions, women and men both gave high ratings to self-enhancement values (including power and achievement) potentially reflecting cultural shifts in gendered traits for women in the workplace. Women and men similarly gave high ratings to self-transcendence values (including benevolence) but not universalism. As predicted, however, women rated universalism higher than men, as did low level employees when compared to high-level employees. In addition, those at the lowest levels rated power as less important than those at high levels undergirding previous findings on power motivation. This study extends the literature on gender, values and power through a paradox perspective. In some areas, it shows evidence of traditional masculine-feminine binaries. In others, however, it illuminates deviation from traditional roles of power and gender.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365043