Down With La Difference

Like most people these days, you're getting combat fatigue from the gender wars. You'll grasp at any shred of evidence that men and women have enough in common to someday be capable of inhabiting the same planet peacefully.

The news from the gender front offers a glimmer of hope in the office. A team of Louisiana psychologists found that, faced with stress in the workplace, men and women actually employ identical coping strategies.

Linda Brannon, Ph.D., of MacNeese State University, and Kathleen Fontenot, Ph.D., of CITGO Petroleum Corp., both in Lake Charles, Louisiana, surveyed 21 men and 21 women performing similar jobs at similar pay. All were asked to recall a stressful situation involving tasks and one involving other people at work.

There were no gender differences in the ways those surveyed handled stress, the researchers reported. The only differences were in the coping strategies by type of stress situation.

In the face of interpersonal stress, both men and women made more attempts to aggressively alter the situation—so-called confrontive coping—and to control their own emotions. When experiencing task-oriented job stress, both were equally likely to analyze and change the situation, so-called planful problem solving.

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If there are gender differences in coping with job-related stress, conclude the researchers, it's due to the nature of the job, not to gender.

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