Changing behavior can hurt your image

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Oct 22, 2008
By dvm360.com staff

If you've ever caught yourself acting out of character when trying to make a good impression on, say, a client or a new boss, you're not alone. But according to new research, your modified behavioral pattern may have a very different outcome from the one you seek.

Researchers at the University of Southern California found that when people try to make a positive impression, their behavior often contradicts gender stereotypes—but not necessarily to their benefit. Researchers assigned 190 MBA students to same-sex groups representing either recruiters or job candidates engaged in an employment negotiation. When given a cash incentive to make a positive impression, women negotiated more aggressively and men took a more appeasing approach. These behaviors run counter to stereotypes, which suggest that women are weak, ineffective negotiators and men are overly aggressive.

But while the men's strategy of behaving in a less imposing manner succeeded in producing a positive impression in their counterparts' eyes, the women's strategy of behaving more assertively failed to create a positive impression. In fact, women showing this characteristic were viewed more negatively.