Blurring the Stark Distinction Between Masculine and Feminine Brands

An identity, integral to our understanding of who we are is our gender identity. It is perhaps the first and the most easily recognizable feature of our persona that we. Unlike sex, our gender is not congenitally determined; rather it is constructed, developed, and refined through social and cultural exchanges. The appropriate and discriminatory gender roles ascribed by the society, direct communication, and influence of media coerce us to develop a personal sense of “maleness or femaleness”.

Business Perspectives and ResearchWhatever be the case, once we develop a gender identity we communicate and demonstrate it in a number of ways. A common way is to appropriate consumption practices and props that reflect our gender identity. Marketers’ gender work is instrumental in creating gendered brands. Since gendered brands appeal to the gender of consumers, they are suitable for either men or women, but not for both. As such, gendered brands create distinct gender cultures populated with gender specific brands. However, of late stagnant sales and societal changes have encouraged many marketers to engage in brand gender bending by deconstructing the gender exclusivity of brands. Marketers are continually expanding the gender spectrum of previously gendered brands by bringing women into the male-skewed customer base of male-gendered products and vice versa. The historical divide between masculine and feminine products is blurring and “unisex” is emerging as the new consumption ideology.

An article from Business Perspective and Research attempts to integrate and extend the theory of brand gender bending by convening arguments from different but complimentary social sciences. Based on the review and scientific understanding of the long-standing research, the study underscores the difference in the reactions of men and women to brand gender bending. It also proposes a conceptual framework that highlights the determinants that drive consumer responses to brand gender bending.

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Abstract

In the postmodern era, many marketers have disturbed the strict gender discipline traditionally associated with gendered brands. Marketers are redoing their gender work by blurring the stark distinction between masculine and feminine brands. New consumption ideologies are developing that transcend the gendered meanings of brands and encourage men and women to infiltrate brands traditionally associated with the opposite gender. “Unisex” is emerging as the byword. This review convenes the phenomenological consumer responses to brand gender bending. It specifically highlights the contrast between the ways in which men and women react to dilution/revision of the gender identity meanings of their brands. This article also underscores the ethnographic, sociological, psychological, and anthropological reasons that justify these reactions.

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The Influence of Textual Cues on First Impressions of an Email Sender

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Shannon L. Marlow of Rice University, Christina N. Lacernza of University of Colorado Boulder, and Chelsea Iwig of the NASA Johnston Space Center. They recently published an article in the Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “The Influence of Textual Cues on First Impressions of an Email Sender,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Marlow reveals the motivation for conducting this research:]

BPCQ.indd“Our motivation in pursuing the present research was to uncover practical implications regarding how to compose an email and explore facets of virtual communication. Specifically, we were interested in emails within a business context and how subtle cues within the email would influence perceptions of the email sender. We assessed whether closing salutations would impact the email receiver’s perception of the sender. As the cues within an email are limited, we believed that such cues would have an impact. We manipulated closing salutations (i.e., no salutation, “Thanks!,” “Best,” or “Thank you”), gender of the email sender, and sending method (i.e., email sent via desktop computer/laptop as compared to email sent via a mobile device). We assessed how these manipulations influenced perceptions of positive affect, negative affect, professionalism, and competence.

We were surprised to find that, on the whole, study participants rated women senders as more professional across the majority of conditions; however, women were rated as less competent when they used the “Thanks!”salutation. It appears that women are penalized for using this particular salutation whereas men are perceived similarly, in regards to competence, across all closing salutations examined in this study. We were further surprised to find that there were no differences in regards to perceptions of senders using different sending methods. It appears individuals perceive mobile devices as a professional method of communication for business exchanges. Finally, and in line with similar findings from the literature, we found that positive affect can be conveyed through using an exclamation point (i.e., using “Thanks!” as a closing salutation) and thus punctuation may be used to convey excitement and enthusiasm about work-related matters. On the whole, our findings indicate that subtle cues within emails are capable of influencing perceptions and individuals should reflect carefully when composing an email to ensure they are doing so in a way that promotes desired perceptions.”

 

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Are Voluntary Agreements Better? Evidence from Baseball Arbitration

[We’re pleased to welcome author John W. Budd of the University of Minnesota. Budd recently published an article in the ILR Review entitled “Are Voluntary Agreements Better? Evidence from Baseball Arbitration,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Budd reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

Coaches Umpires Pre-game Meeting BaseballThink of a dispute you’ve had with a person or entity that you have an ongoing relationship with, like a business, employer, co-worker, or neighbor. Was that dispute resolved between the two of you, or did it involve a third-party determination by a judge, arbitrator, superior, or some other authority? Do you think it mattered how the dispute was resolved? Would your behavior have changed if it was resolved differently?

Conflict resolution professionals and academics have long believed that voluntarily-negotiated agreements produce better long-run relationships than third-party imposed resolutions. This is because the participants can control their own destiny, tailor agreements to their liking, and feel greater ownership in the process and the outcome. Sounds sensible. But there is very little evidence beyond the parties feeling satisfied immediately after resolution. Maybe a formal procedure like a courtroom or arbitration hearing provides greater levels of due process, or the process doesn’t really matter for a long-term relationship because people forget what happened. The motivation for our research in “Are Voluntary Agreements Better? Evidence from Baseball Arbitration” is to provide evidence on this conventional wisdom, and to hopefully spur others to rigorously analyze this important issue in other settings.

Perhaps one reason why there is not much evidence on the long-term effects of dispute resolution mechanisms is that it’s challenging to find research settings in which the same type of dispute is resolved in different ways and in which the long-term effects can be consistently measured. We identified Major League Baseball as a compelling setting for these analyses because individual performance is well measured, the possibility of relationship breakdown is quite real, the negotiation and arbitration events are uniform and comparable across players, and both voluntary and imposed resolutions are routinely observed. Baseball players with between three (sometimes two) and six years of service are eligible for salary arbitration with their current team. In any given year, some go to arbitration while many settle voluntarily. If voluntarily-negotiated agreements are meaningfully better, then in the following season we would expect to see better on-field performance and more lasting relationships for those who voluntarily reached a salary agreement compared to those who went to arbitration and had a new salary imposed on them.

Using 24 years of data comparing players who arbitrated with those who settled just before arbitrating, we find partial support for the conventional wisdom. We find that relationships are more durable when the player and club negotiate a new salary rather than having a salary imposed by an arbitrator. Specifically, arbitration nearly doubles the likelihood of a player not being with the same team at the end of the season. But there are no statistically significant differences in on-field performance between players who go to arbitration and those who settle voluntarily. This might be due to longer-term career concerns. Most arbitration-eligible players are early in their careers and their on-field performance is visible to other clubs. So they have incentives to set aside any residual feelings from the dispute-resolution process and to perform at a high level in order to position themselves for a lucrative, subsequent contract.

This pattern of results is consistent with scenarios in which the arbitration process harms the player-club relationship and negatively affects player behaviors that are hard to observe (e.g., clubhouse attitude, loyalty to the team), but career concerns and/or loyalty to teammates and fans causes a player to continue to publicly perform at his usual level. Such a scenario can be generalized into an hypothesis that could be applied to other settings—that is, the effect of a dispute resolution procedure will be smaller on dimensions of performance that are valued and easily observed by potential, future partners and larger where performance is harder for future potential partners to observe.

While the data come from the context of professional baseball, these results are important for dispute resolution researchers and practitioners with implications beyond professional baseball. The claimed superiority of voluntary dispute resolution procedures is neither uniformly rejected nor supported. Additional research and perhaps some re-thinking of longstanding assumptions are therefore needed.

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Benefits of Starting Work Meetings On Time

[We’re pleased to welcome author Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock of the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Lehmann-Willenbrock recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled, “Well, Now What Do We Do? Wait . . .:A Group Process Analysis of Meeting Lateness,” co-authored by Joseph Allen. From Lehmann-Willenbrock:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? One earlier study had shown that meeting lateness is very common in the workplace. Meetings begin late all the time, even though wasting time is typically a red flag for organizations. Lateness can be quite a nuisance for th4330781173_db539e781c_z.jpgose who are punctual. We also know this from our own meetings – it’s just so annoying when you’re on time, but others are late and you are kept waiting, thus wasting precious work time. But in addition to annoying employees individually, there might also be negative effects in terms of the group as a whole. So we were curious what lateness does to the group processes in the actual meeting itself.

Joseph Allen set up a meetings lab, with the purpose of focusing on meetings as a research phenomenon. This gave him the opportunity to manipulate different variables, including different levels of meeting lateness (something that would not be possible when studying actual meetings at work).
During our collaboration on previous projects, we increasingly looked into the fine-grained interaction dynamics that make up a good meeting, or a terrible one.  We have conducted several studies on group dynamics within meetings until now, and find again and again that what happens in the actual meeting matters a great deal to meeting satisfaction and effectiveness.
So the connection between lateness and group dynamics seemed like a logical connection to draw in our research.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? Overall, our findings are really quite aligned with our hypotheses. As expected, groups that begin their meetings late are less effective in terms of discussing problems in depth, generating ideas and solutions, and showing support for one another, in comparison to groups that meet on time. These findings hold when we control for meeting length. This means that the differences in these groups’ interaction patterns and the quality of their problem solving is actually due to the meeting lateness (rather than the shorter time that is available when a meeting starts late).

What is somewhat surprising though is that we found quite substantial effects of lateness in terms of derailing group dynamics and deteriorating problem solving, even though these were ad-hoc laboratory groups. Think about how much stronger the effects might even be in the real workplace, where you have to continue working together beyond the meeting.

How do you see this study influencing future research? In terms of future research, there are a host of potential other negative outcomes of lateness both within and after the meeting. We think that lateness may not just derail group dynamics and visible behaviors, as we have shown in this study, but also individual emotional experiences, for example. Moreover, the negative effects of meeting lateness may linger and carry on into employees’ work days, long after the meeting has passed.

Another factor to consider in future research concerns nonverbal expressions during meetings that start late. We noticed in our video data that group members’ nonverbal expressions became quite pronounced as the lateness period continued and they got more annoyed. Again, such expressions may be even stronger in real meetings, rather than the research lab. In this context, future research can also investigate how lateness affects the emergent group mood in the actual meeting itself.

Moreover, individual lateness to meetings might be an indicator or implicit measure of other negative employee attitudes and behaviors. For example, employees who tend to show up late for meetings might be unsatisfied or frustrated with their jobs more generally. Lateness to team meetings could also mean that the team does not feel committed to their shared task, or that the team experiences interpersonal conflict. Future research can examine these possibilities.

For practice, put simply, our results suggest: Don’t be late to your meetings, people! Leaders especially should not be late, as they are often seen as behavioral models for their employees.
Everyone should be wary of the negative consequences of meeting lateness, and therefore plan ahead so meetings can begin on time.

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Clocks photo attributed to Desmond Williams  (CC).

Influences of Multiple Role Management Strategies

[We’re pleased to welcome author Guillaume Carton of the Institut Supérieur de Gestion, France. Carton recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Bridging the Research-Practice Divide: A Study of Scholar-Practitioners’ Multiple Role Management Strategies and Knowledge Spillovers across Roles,” co-authored by  Paula Ungureanu of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. From Carton:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? We both did our PhD investigating the theory-practice divide in management. We wanted to cJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgontribute to the debate by bringing empirical data sets of exemplar situations through which people successfully bridge the divide. While some studies have argued that focus of rigor versus relevance determine an unbridgeable research-practice divide, others have suggested that successful exchanges occur on a daily basis thanks to people that dedicate their careers to spanning these boundaries. Yet, few studies have investigated if and how research-practice boundary spanners make it there where others are accused of failing. That is how we got interested in scholar-practitioners, individuals who successfully keep one foot each in the worlds of academia and practice and advance knowledge of both research and practice. We contacted recipients of scholar-practitioners’ prizes, and other recognized scholar-practitioners and simply asked them how they were dealing with their day-to-day multiple professional roles. Our study speaks both to the theory-practice debate and to the literature on strategies of multiple role management.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? One may think that getting a PhD or a DBA after an experience in industry, or working part-time as a consultant throughout academic tenure automatically awards the status of boundary spanner, and all the benefits it implies, such as, for instance, the knowledge advantages of a financial broker or the reputation of a cultural mediator. However, our study shows that scholar-practitioners have a very hard time defining who they are, professionally and personally speaking, because they are caught in between institutional pressures for role separation, on the one side, and their personal desideratum for role integration, on the other side.

Specifically, we show that scholar-practitioners move differently on the separation-integration continuum, according to how experienced they are. The less experienced scholar-practitioners seem to be more subject to pressures for role separation and follow a strategy that constantly reorders the priority of their roles, avoiding this way an overloading integration. The more the scholar-practitioners progress in their career, the more they are willing to integrate their roles, through strategies that we called “role interspacing” and “temporary role bundling” which, however, do not reach a full level of integration.

An important feature of the study is the concern not only with how boundary spanning occurs but also with what kind of knowledge gets transferred from one role to another. We found that role management strategies that are closer to the separation pole allow scholar-practitioners to make operations with contents, while strategies that are closer to the integration pole enable them to transfer across roles procedural knowledge, and, in the condition of highest role integration, metaknowledge -i.e., knowledge about who knows whom and who knows what in their social networks.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Currently, we know almost nothing about how people or organizations successfully bridge the research/practice divide. Our paper gives a first impulse to investigate and recognize the key role of scholar-practitioners. We also go beyond scholar practitioners and provocatively suggest that a solution to bridge the academia-practice gap is to encourage also traditional scholars and practitioners to perceive themselves as fragile and at the same time resourceful boundary spanners.
Our study also brings significant contributions to role theory. The finding that professionals move differently on the separation-integration continuum according to experience can have important consequences for setting up motivational strategies for professionals at different stages of their career, as well as assisting them in their struggles to maintain a delicate equilibrium between pressures for separation and integration.

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How Surveys Provide Integrated Communication Skills

“Excuse me, can you spare a  a few minutes? We’re conducting a survey and would greatly appreciate your responses.” You’ve most likely heard these two sentences presented to you as you’re walking briskly down a crowded street. The Internet is also a crowded street full of news, but we hope you can spare a few minutes to read about the latest research from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

Author Anne Witte of EDHEC Business School, France, recently published a paper in BCQ entitled “Tackling the survey: A learning-by-induction design,”where she outlines the different learning outcomes that surveys afford. Below, Witte describes her inspiration for the study:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Our world is filled with surveys, yet surveys are often a negl4453697565_dcacd29f08_z.jpgected area in business training and often taught as a kind of mechanical application task which has more to do with software than with thinking.  As qualitative and quantitative data are the basis for business and organizations today, I wanted to train students more in the “art” rather than the “science” of the survey.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Students are often overconfident in their ability to do a survey task from A to Z.  When you challenge them with an interesting question to answer through a survey, they discover on their own how difficult it really is to obtain quality data that can be used to make decisions.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

I love testing new teaching paradigms with advanced business students and especially using interdisciplinary thought experiments that oblige students to draw from previous knowledge and varied skills sets.

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Survey photo attributed to Plings (CC).

 

Enhancing Student Learning Through Scaffolded Client Projects

[We’re pleased to welcome author Elizabeth Tomlinson of West Virginia University. Tomlinnson recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Enhancing Student Learning Through Scaffolded Client Projects.” Below, Tomlinson outlines the inspiration for this study:]

As a Teaching Assistant Professor, much of my research tends to focus on advancing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (STL). I want to ensure that the pedagogical practices I’m using are meeting my students’ needs, as well as advancing pedagogy within the disciplinBPCQ_v77n1_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpge. Simultaneously, I want to ensure that the clients who graciously allow my students to work with them have a great experience and receive worthwhile materials that they can actually use. I am not an instructor who is comfortable with the status quo— as a business school professor, I’m continually looking for ways to enhance student readiness for the workforce while improving students’ experiences in my courses. This impetus led to my systematic investigation into what ways client projects (CP) are currently being used across the business communication course, as well as the best practices in place to teach those types of projects. The survey data from other instructors pointed to a need for a model for teaching CP, which the article demonstrates.

I was first introduced to the CP concept in conversations with Gerry Winter, one of my mentors at Kent State. She explained how she had used the projects in the past, and also provided some advice on how to fit these types of projects within the framework of technical and business communication courses.

Regarding the findings for this project, one of the surprises to me was the differences between the actual problems instructors using CP face and the problems instructors not currently using CP fear. I hope that the article speaks to both of these audiences. In the future, we should continue to critically examine our pedagogical practices—it’s important to bring our knowledge of good research practices into the classroom to examine how we plan and deliver our courses, while continually assessing how to teach more effectively.

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