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The Unfairness of Being Perceived as “Too Aggressive”

Unfair job review

Digested from MarketWatch

A survey by Harvard Business Review found that women were likely to be called “too aggressive” in performance reviews.

Is being aggressive a good thing at work? Apparently, it depends on whether you are a man or a woman.

In a survey of 200 performance reviews within one company, Harvard Business Review’s Shelley Correll and Caroline Simard found that “76 percent of references to being ‘too aggressive’ happened in women’s reviews, versus 24 percent in men’s.”

This label can have far-ranging, negative effects.

“Several studies indicate women are far more likely to be judged on their performance in ways that don’t specifically clarify the level of performance or include focused explanations of what can be improved,” Pratima Rao Gluckman writes for MarketWatch. “Being told in a performance review that one is ‘aggressive’ and being advised to be ‘less aggressive’ is an example of how women’s performance reviews can exhibit patterns of bias, vague feedback and nonactionable suggestions for improvement.”

While companies are addressing salary differences between men and women, Gluckman writes that they still need to address a disparity in reviews.

“Those who have the responsibility for reviewing another person’s performance must choose their words carefully,” Gluckman writes. “There is a world of difference between being ‘aggressive’ and being professionally assertive.”

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