Survey sheds new light on male bosses and trust

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(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Last month the folks at Mozy released a survey about how we're working more and more outside of business hours. Yesterday I received a follow up email from them where they informed me about another interesting data point from their survey: Men are more likely than women to believe that their employees are working remotely.

The level of difference varied among countries, and the survey was small enough that I wouldn't run out and write a whole book on this phenomenon, but it does make me wonder: Why is there a big difference?

I'm a huge fan of Results Oriented Work Environments (ROWE), where people are recognized and rewarded for the end product, rather than the number of hours spent slaving away. (Recognizing, of course, that there is value in failed projects as well as successful ones, but that's a topic for another day.) If employees are where you cannot physically see them, you must rely more on ROWE principles, because even if you require them to track their time in 15 minute increments, you can't really tell what they were doing in those particular 15 minutes. (Well, with the exception of someone who installs computer monitoring software so you can track every mouse click of your employees.)

Logically, you would think that since women tend to worry more about flexibility then men do, if you wanted a flexible schedule, off site work capabilities, and the trust that you would get your work done regardless of what you were doing right this minute, you'd want to look for a female boss.

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So, why isn't this true?

Is everyone projecting their own work ethics on their employees? Among men and women who work full time (defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as 35 hours per week or more), women average 7.8 hours per day in contrast to men, who average 8.3 hours per day. Perhaps because women work fewer hours, they assume their employees aren't working when they aren't being watched. And by the same token, men know they are working more than the minimum and assume their employees are too.

Maybe it has to do precisely with the fact that women do want more flexibility, so if they have to be in the office, you should be too? 

Honestly, I don't know what the reason behind the difference is. I do know that people (both male and female)  have long had preferences for male bosses. A September 2011 Gallup poll said that 32 percent of people preferred a male boss to 22 percent who preferred a female boss, with everyone else not expressing a preference.

The most fascinating aspect of this, is that this is the smallest difference Gallup has ever recorded. The greatest difference was when they first asked the question, back in 1953, when 66 percent of those surveyed preferred a male boss, while only 5 percent preferred a female  boss. That seems understandable from way back then, but the current difference still indicates that, overall, people perceive differences in management based on gender.

Have your female bosses shown a lack of flexibility? What about your male bosses? Do you have a preference? If you wanted flexibility and a boss that trusted you, would the gender of the boss sway your decision to accept or reject a job offer?

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