Skip to main content
Log in

Gender and Impression Management: Playing the Promotion Game

  • Published:
Journal of Business Ethics Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Little attention has been paid to the role which impression management (IM) of genuine and substantial talents and commitment plays in the careers of female and male managers seeking promotion. IM studies have largely investigated the supervisor/subordinate relationship, often with samples of business students in laboratory settings. In the Cranfield Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders, we have focused on the use of IM by practising managers. In this paper, we examine previous literature for indications that gender may be important in explaining differences in IM behaviours. We then report findings from a survey and a qualitative study, showing that gender, especially combined with age and job level, is a differentiating factor in managers' inclinations to use particular IM behaviours. Many women (and some men too) seem uncomfortable with using IM. Women do not always want to play "the organizational game" by the male-constructed unwritten rules, but prefer to trust good management and systems fairness for just rewards. Younger and junior level women managers often recognize that IM may be a useful tool but reject its use for themselves. Women seem to prefer to rely on extra high performance and commitment for visibility to their seniors rather than the networking, ingratiation and self-promotion strategies used more by males. An important consequence is that as ambitious young males use job-focused IM in addition to self and manager-focused strategies, this is likely to leave young women at a considerable disadvantage for promotion, if the strategies are successful.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Alimo-Metcalfe, B.: 1994, ‘Gender Bias in the Selection and Assessment of Women in Management', in M. Davidson and R. J. Burke (eds.), Women in Management: Current Research Issues (Paul Chapman Publishing, London), pp. 93–109.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, J. H. and M. J. Karson: 1989, ‘Managers' Values and Executive Decisions: An Exploration of the Role of Gender, Career Stage, Organizational Level, Function, and the Importance of Ethics, Relationships, and Results in Managerial Decision Making’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, 747–771.

    Google Scholar 

  • Betz, M., L. O'Connel and J. M. Shepard: 1989, ‘Gender Differences in Proclivity for Unethical Behavior’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, 321–332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Derry, R.: 1989, ‘An Empirical Study of Moral Reasoning Among Managers’, Journal of Business Ethics 8, 855–862.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dobbins, G., W. S. Long, E. J. Dedrick and T. C. Clemons: 1990, ‘The Role of Self-Monitoring and Gender on Leader Emergence: A Laboratory and Field Study’, Journal of Management 16(3), 609–618.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A. H. and W. Wood: 1991, ‘Explaining Sex Differences in Social Behaviour: A Meta-Analytic Perspective’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 17, 306–315.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferris, G. R., P. L. Perrewé, W. P. Anthony and D. C. Gilmore: 2000, ‘Political Skill at Work’, Organizational Dynamics 28(4), 25–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fletcher, J. K.: 1999, Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power and Relational Practice at Work (MIT Press, Cambridge MA).

    Google Scholar 

  • Franke, G. R., D. Crown and D. F. Spake: 1997, ‘Gender Differences in Ethical Perceptions of Business Practices: A Social Role Theory Perspective’, Journal of Applied Psychology 82(6), 920–934.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gangestad, S. W. and M. Snyder: 2000, ‘Self-Monitoring: Appraisal and Reappraisal’, Psychological Bulletin 126(4), 530–555.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilligan, C.: 1982, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA).

    Google Scholar 

  • Gowler, D. and K. Legge: 1989, ‘Rhetoric in Bureaucratic Careers: Managing the Meaning of Management Success', in M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall and B. S. Lawrence (eds.), Handbook of Career Theory (University Press, Cambridge, Cambridge), pp. 437–453.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heim, P.: 1993, Hardball for Women: Winning at the Game of Business (Penguin Books, Middlesex).

    Google Scholar 

  • Ibarra, H.: 2000, ‘Making Partner: A Mentor's Guide to the Psychological Journey’, Harvard Business Review(March-April), 146–155.

  • Kilduff, M. and D. V. Day: 1994, ‘Do Chameleons Get Ahead? The Effects of Self-Monitoring on Managerial Careers’, Academy of Management Journal 37(4), 1047–1060.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maddock, S. and D. Parkin: 1993, ‘Gender Cultures: Women's Choices and Strategies at Work’, Women in Management Review 8(2), 3–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oakley, J. G.: 2000, ‘Gender-based Barriers to Senior Management Positions: Understanding the Scarcity of Female CEOs’, Journal of Business Ethics 27(4), 321–334.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosener, J. B.: 1990, ‘Ways Women Lead’, Harvard Business Review 68, 119–125.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenfeld, P., R. A. Giacalone and C. A. Riordan: 1995, Impression Management in Organizations: Theory, Measurement, Practice (Routledge, London).

    Google Scholar 

  • Rudman, L.: 1998, ‘Self-Promotion as a Risk Factor for Women: The Costs and Benefits of Counter-Stereotypical Impression Management’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, 629–645.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schein, V. E., R. Mueller, T. Lituchy and J. Liu: 1996, ‘Think Manager, Think Male. A Global Phenomenon’, Journal of Organizational Behavior 17(1), 33–41.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sheppard, D. L.: 1989, ‘Organizations, Power and Sexuality: The Image and Self-Image of Women Managers', in J. Hearn, D. Sheppard, P. Tancred-Sheriff and G. Burrell (eds.), The Sexuality of Organization (Sage, London) pp. 139–157.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singh, V. and S. Vinnicombe: 2000a, ‘Preliminary Validation of a New Impression Management Scale for Managers, and the Influence of Sex, Age and Job Level on Impression Management Usage’, European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium, Helsinki, Finland, July.

  • Singh, V. and S. Vinnicombe: 2000b, ‘Gendered Meanings of Commitment from High Technology Engineering Managers in the U.K. and Sweden’, Gender, Work and Organization 7(1), 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singh, V. and S. Vinnicombe: 2001, ‘Impression Management, Commitment and Gender: Managing Others' Good Opinions’, European Management Journal 19(2), 183–194.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singh, V., S. Vinnicombe and P. Johnson: 2001, ‘Women Directors on Top U.K. Boards’, Corporate Governance: An International Review 9(3), 206–216.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stumpf, S. A. and M. London: 1981, ‘Management Promotions: Individual and Organizational Factors influencing the Decision Process’, Academy of Management Review 6(4), 639–549.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tannen, D.: 1994, Talking from 9 to 5: Women at Work-Language, Sex and Power (Virago, Reading).

    Google Scholar 

  • Thacker, R. A. and S. J. Wayne: 1995, ‘An Examination of the Relationship between Upward Influence Tactics and Assessments of Promotability’, Journal of Management 21(4), 739–756.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, K. R. and F. Luthans: 1983, ‘Behavioral Interpretation of Power', in R. W. Allen and L. W. Porter (eds.), Organizational Influence Processes (Scott Foresman, Glenview, IL).

    Google Scholar 

  • Vinnicombe, S., V. Singh and J. Sturges: 2000, ‘Making it to the Top in Britain', in R. J. Burke and M. Mattis (eds.), Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: International Challenges and Opportunities (Kluwer, Dordrecht), pp. 57–74.

  • Wayne, S. J. and R. C. Liden: 1995, ‘Effects of Impression Management on Performance Ratings: A Longitudinal Study’, Academy of Management Journal 38(1), 232–260.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Singh, V., Kumra, S. & Vinnicombe, S. Gender and Impression Management: Playing the Promotion Game. Journal of Business Ethics 37, 77–89 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014782118902

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014782118902

Navigation