Men are less likely to take direction and criticism: study


VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It’s well-known that men generally have a little trouble asking for directions, but it is a behaviour that has implications in the workplace, too.

A psychological study suggests women are better than men at taking criticism and guidance, making them much more coachable than their male colleagues. Ilona Jerabek at calls it the “Asking for Directions Complex.”

“If you ask most women, they’ll tell you that they have experienced this situation,” she chuckles. “When they are driving around and their husband or partner is lost and it’s becoming more and more obvious, they will not swallow their pride and ask for directions. They’d rather drive for half an hour to find their way!”

Jerabek says that attitude crosses over into the workplace and relationships.

“All people are relatively coachable and other studies have found the majority of people do appreciate opportunities to learn on the job and advance their knowledge. But we have found women, as a group, do score higher on the overall coachability score and they do better on the majority of the sub-factors we looked at.”

That includes the ability to handle criticism, openness to learning and improvement, willingness to take direction and willingness to ask for help. Men did score higher in one category, but it’s not something to crow about.

“It was on a scale for what we call ‘know-it-all-ism’, and that is a reverse score from the rest,” she explains.

So, why the gender divide when it comes to taking guidance?

“Of course, it doesn’t apply to all men, but in general I think it’s part nature and part nurture. Men tend to have a higher need to be in control. They don’t want to appear to be a fool; they don’t want to admit that they are not following the conversation or that they have a weakness. It might just be about a bruised ego or self esteem issues.”

Jerabek believes you need to be able to look at your performance and recognize that, even if you are an experienced professional, there are always areas where you can do better — where you can learn and grow.

Here’s how men and women compared in data from PsychTests:

  • Women are more coachable overall than men (score of 75 vs. 71 on a scale from 0 to 100)
  • Women are better at handling criticism (74 vs. 69)
  • Women are more open to learning and improvement (85 vs. 81)
  • Women are more willing to take direction (70 vs. 67)

Other differences between men and women:

  • 2% of women vs. 7% of men believe that they don’t have any weaknesses.
  • 3% of women vs. 10% of men think that performance evaluations are a waste of time, because they are already good at what they do.
  • 5% of women vs. 11% of men will immediately shut down and stop listening as soon as they hear a negative comment about their work. (This is why nagging is a waste of time).
  • 7% of women vs. 16% of men admit that they exaggerate or over-estimate their professional skills.
  • 9% of women vs. 22% of men believe that they are much more knowledgeable than most people.
  • 10% of women vs. 25% of men believe that there is no point in pursuing a goal if you need other people’s help to achieve it.
  • 19% of women vs. 27% of men don’t like admitting to others when they are having difficulty understand something, or are unfamiliar with the topic of conversation.
  • 85% of women vs. 79% of men are open to advice and suggestions from their manager.

If asked to list their faults, 10% of women and 15% of men would have a hard time coming up with any.

During a performance review:

  • 5% of women vs. 12% of men threatened to quit after a performance review.
  • 5% of women vs. 10% of men actually quit after a performance review.
  • 13% of women vs. 30% of men told the critic that he/she is “wrong” or “misinformed”.
  • 25% of women vs. 34% of men agreed to improve/implement changes but never followed through.
  • 27% of women vs. 41% of men openly disagreed with the feedback they received

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