Well Said: Status is in the eye of the beholder

In this episode of Well Said, Alison Fragale of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School discusses the challenges women can face as leaders in the workplace.

In the workplace, the terms “status” and “power” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not really true synonyms.

“Status and power are both associated with hierarchy in groups and organizations,” said Alison Fragale, associate professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, “but they have different definitions. They are theoretically and conceptually different.”

According to Fragale, power is measured by the number of resources one controls — like the office budget. Status, on the other hand, is a measurement of how well-liked someone is. These two factors, when considered together, can cause people to stereotype their co-workers.

These stereotypes are hard enough for many to manage when a person holds a leadership role, but it’s an especially difficult balance for women, Fragale said.

“Women are supposed to show up as high on the warm-cold dimension,” she explained, “and leaders are supposed to show up as high on the dominant dimension. That doesn’t mean they can’t be warm as well, but what ends up happening is those stereotypes conflict. What I expect of a good leader is to be confident, assertive, ambitious and decisive. And what I expect of a good woman is to be other-oriented, nurturing, caring and kind.”

And when those stereotypes clash, it can create problems.

In this episode of Well Said, Fragale discusses stereotype conflict often found in the workplaces of female leaders, and how it can be managed.

Listen to the episode on SoundCloud or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Read a transcript of this episode.

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