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Press Release - 24 October 2006

Women feel less trusting in their relationships at work, study says

Women feel less trusting in their relationships at work than men do, a new study shows.

They are less likely than men to feel that clients and other people they deal with in other companies are acting honestly with them, says the research, from the University of Bath.

Dr Simon Pervan interviewed 400 senior marketing managers about their relationships with people from other companies in the advertising and marketing sector.

He found that only 48 per cent of women agreed with the statement: “We are honest with each other about the problems that arise,” whereas 67 per cent of men agreed with this.

Only 45 per cent of women agreed with the statements that, in their relationship, “parties were willing to exchange fairly, communicate problems and make up for harm done,” compared with 55 per cent of men, an indicator of how reciprocal they felt their relationships were.

“These findings show that women are less likely to feel that the relationship they have with people from other companies is honest or reciprocal,” said Dr Pervan, who is based at the University’s School of Management Marketing Group.

“It could be that women, being more empathic, are better able to see that the relationships at work are not honest or reciprocal, whereas men wrongly assume they are.

“A cynical interpretation of the results is that men are more likely to blissfully continue in what they perceive, wrongly or rightly, as a good business relationship.”

In a separate but related study, Dr Pervan found that men were twice as likely to have low levels of empathy – 88 per cent – compared to 44 per cent of women. This means that where women do encounter reciprocity from others, they are better able to use it to form a positive relationship because they are more empathic.

Dr Pervan found that those employees who scored highly for reciprocal behaviour had higher self-esteem and morale, and urged companies to find ways to develop this behaviour in staff.

“This study suggests that promoting reciprocal behaviour within an organisation may improve employees’ self-esteem, sense of life balance and expectation, while also providing long-term benefits to the firm through strengthened commercial relationships, improved morale and retention,” he said.

The study also found that 81 per cent of those who thought they had high levels of reciprocity in their business relationships also reported high levels of self-esteem.

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. The University has close links with business, with many of its students working for part of their course in industry. The University also provides services to help new businesses, and its research is the basis for several successful spin-off companies. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/releases

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Dr Simon Pervan
Dr Simon Pervan
Photo by Nic Delves-Broughton

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