Journal Article

Appearing self-confident and getting credit for it: Why it may be easier for men than women to gain influence at work

Human Resource Management
Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, Natalia Karelaia
Subject(s): Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s): Self-confidence appearance, gender, job performance, prosocial orientation, organizational influence

Appearing self-confident is instrumental for progressing at work. However, little is known about what makes individuals appear self-confident at work. We draw on attribution and social perceptions literatures to theorize about both antecedents and consequences of appearing self-confident for men and women in male-dominated professions. We suggest that performance is one determinant of whether individuals are seen as confident at work, and that this effect is moderated by gender. We further propose that self-confidence appearance increases the extent to which individuals exert influence in their organizations. However, for women, appearing self-confident is not enough to gain influence. In contrast to men, women in addition are “required” to be prosocially oriented. Multisource, time-lag data from a technological company showed that performance had a positive effect on self-confidence appearance for both men and women. However, the effect of self-confidence appearance on organizational influence was moderated by gender and prosocial orientation, as predicted. Our results show that through self-confidence appearance, job performance directly enables men to exert influence in their organizations. In contrast, high performing women gain influence only when self-confidence appearance is coupled with prosocial orientation. We discuss the implications of our results for gender equality, leadership, and social perceptions.