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Photo via P. Johnson/2011 New Line Productions
Photo via”Horrible Bosses”/John P. Johnson/2011 New Line Productions

By now, most of us know that one reason men get paid more because they usually ask for more. But this recent news about salary negotiations shows that men are even more aggressive when they’re stepping to the table with a female superior.

In these studies published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that “men feel more threatened (relative to women) by women in superior roles (relative to men in superior roles) and, as a result, engage in more assertive behaviors toward these women.”

The researchers also found that women in superior roles who display qualities “associated with administrative agency,” or directness and proactivity, elicited less assertive behavior from men than if they exhibit more “ambitious” behavior, i.e. self-promoting or power-seeking.

“The concept of masculinity is becoming more elusive in society as gender roles blur, with more women taking management positions and becoming the major breadwinners for their families,” lead researcher Ekaterina Netchaeva, an assistant professor of management and technology at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, said in a statement. “Even men who support gender equality may see these advances as a threat to their masculinity, whether they consciously acknowledge it or not.”

In one experiment at a U.S. university, students were asked to negotiate a salary for a new job with a male or female hiring manager, and then took an “implicit threat test” to rate how threatened they felt. Men who negotiated with a woman “exhibited more threat and pushed for a higher salary ($49,400 average), compared to men negotiating with a male manager ($42,870 average).”

The manager’s gender didn’t affect the women but guess what? They solidly negotiated well below their male counterparts with a whopping $41,346 average.

Yet another study had male college students deciding how to split a $10,000 bonus with a male or female team member or supervisor. “Male participants evenly split the money with male or female team members, but men felt more threatened by a female supervisor and tried to keep more money for themselves than with a male supervisor,” the researchers reported.

In the third online experiment, they found that men were “more receptive” to female supervisors who were “proactive and direct” rather than “self-promotive and power-seeking,” and would try to keep a larger part of the $10K bonus if they found her too aggressive. Women offered about the same bonus to managers regardless.

Study co-author Leah Sheppard, an assistant professor of management at Washington State University, told Mashable: “There are plenty of men out there who could very much believe in the cause of gender equality, but … still feel threatened,” she says. “When they’re picturing their lives in their company, they may not imagine having a female manager. They could be experiencing a threat they don’t want to feel.”

Stuff to remember the next time you negotiate, no matter which side you’re on.

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