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Perceptions of college business students: gender and alcoholic managers.

This paper investigated the perceptions of undergraduate business students toward male and female managers who were alcoholics. Since most of the respondents were soon to graduate and seek employment opportunities in business organizations, their perceptions and predispositions seemed relevant. While it was found that the perceptions of alcoholic managers were more negative than that of managers in general, no differences were found with regard to the sex of the manager.

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It would seem intuitive that alcohol abuse can be a severe problem for families, the economy, and the workplace. However, given the well publicized nature of this problem, there is surprisingly little known about its magnitude. The most recent estimates, from the National Institute of Health, of the costs of alcoholism and drug abuse to the American economy were published in 1998 using 1992 data. It was estimated that these costs exceeded 246 billion dollars for the year. Approximately sixty percent of this total ($148 billion) was attributed to alcohol abuse (National Institute of Health [NIH], 1998). These costs included health and social costs as well as economic losses from abuse.

While there is little research into the cost effectiveness of treatment options (George and Tucker, 1996) there is some evidence that organizations are cutting back on treatment (McCoullough, 2005). Over the past decade, the willingness of organizations to fund treatment has declined. While there is a body of literature focused on workplace drinking patterns (for example see: Shore, 1985; Shore, 1990; Shore, 1992; Verbrugge, 1978; and Wilsnack and Wilsnack, 1992) most studies do not deal with the recovering alcoholic.

It has also been reported that men are more prone to drink excessively than are women, and that working women are more likely to drink than are non-working women. Nevertheless, women are still less likely to become problem drinkers than are men (Shore, 1992). With regard to actual workplace behavior, it has been noted that co-workers do react to an individual's behavior. Co-workers of alcoholics tend to experience poor performance, job withdrawal and stress (Bennett and Lehman, 1998).

Svare, Miller and Ames (2004) found a relationship between social climate and drinking behavior in women employed in traditional male occupations. Social climate was defined in terms of the relationship with the boss, quality of group interaction and stress/tension. This finding is important for this paper since we studied women managers and people's attitudes toward those who are alcoholics. These attitudes can affect the entire social climate and will affect not only group performance but perhaps the future drinking behavior of the manager.

While there is a dearth of research concerning attitudes toward recovering alcoholics as managers, we know alcoholic managers exist. Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects them, as long as they are not drinking (Dessler, 2001). Thus, the attitudes of potential subordinates or peers toward alcoholic managers should be important to the functioning of any group or organization.

The present study specifically investigated the differences in how male and female alcoholic managers are perceived. It has been hypothesized that women alcoholics will be viewed more negatively than will men. This is supported by research into gender norms. In fact, in a study of female celebratory behavior, Montemurro and McClure (2005) stress the role of societal expectation on attitudes toward women's drinking behavior. While this view of women as nurturing and responsible individuals does not directly apply to management, one could assume that women managers who violate the nurturing/responsible roles will be viewed negatively. It was further noted that men's drinking behavior was not viewed as negatively because there was not the same expectation.

Method

The sample consisted of 344 undergraduate students enrolled in a Fundamentals of Management course in a university in the eastern part of the United States. This course was a required course for these students since they were either business majors or business minors, or because the course had been designated as a cognate for their chosen concentration. Questionnaires were assembled that included the full Descriptive Index (Schein, 1973 and Schein, 1975) a reduced version of the Schein Index used in a previous study by Tomkiewicz (1999) and items designed to collect classification information. The questionnaires were distributed randomly and participation in filling out the questionnaire was voluntary and anonymous. There were three variations of the questionnaire dispensed. Students did not know that three variations existed. A total of 334 usable forms were returned. The average age of the group was 22 years. There were 115 usable questionnaires for the managers, 109 and 110 usable forms for male and female alcoholic managers respectively.

Full Version of the Measuring Instrument

The 92-item Descriptive Index originated by Schein (1973 and 1975) was used in this part of the study. This index has been used several times, including Brenner, Tomkiewicz and Schein (1989); Heilman, Block, Martell, & Simon (1989); Dodge, Gilroy, & Fenzel (1995); Tomkiewicz and Brenner (1996); Tomkiewicz and Adeyemi-Bello (1997); Tomkiewicz, Brenner and Adeyemi-Bello (1998) and Tomkiewicz (1999) to define male, female, African-American, white, and Hispanic race stereotypes and the characteristics of managers and successful middle managers. Three forms of this index were used in the present study. Wherein Schein originally had respondents describe women in general, men in general and middle managers in general, respondents in this study were asked to describe managers in general, male alcoholic managers and female alcoholic managers.

The instructions on the three forms of the descriptive index were as follows:
   On the following pages you will find
   a series of descriptive terms commonly
   used to characterize people
   in general. Some of these terms are
   positive in connotation, others are
   negative, and some are neither very
   positive nor very negative.

   We would like you to use this list to
   tell us what you think managers in
   general are like (or male alcoholic
   managers or female alcoholic managers).
   In making your judgments,
   it may be helpful to imagine that you
   are about to meet a person for the
   first time and the only thing you
   know in advance is that the person
   is a manager (or a male alcoholic
   manager or a female alcoholic manager).
   Please rate each word or
   phrase in terms of how characteristic
   it is of managers in general (or
   male alcoholic managers or female
   alcoholic managers).


The ratings of the descriptive terms were made on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (not characteristic) to 5 (characteristic), with a neutral rating of 3 (neither characteristic nor uncharacteristic). The alpha coefficient of reliability was calculated for the sample as 0.87, 0.94 and 0.91 for managers in general, male alcoholic managers and female alcoholic managers, respectively.

Results using the Full Version of the Measuring Instrument

Intra-class correlation coefficients ([r.sup.1]) from two randomized groups analyses of variance were computed to determine the degree of similarity between the descriptions of managers in general and alcoholic male managers, managers in general and alcoholic female managers and alcoholic male managers and alcoholic female managers for the total sample and for the men and women who responded (cf. Hays, 1963: 424). The classes, or groups, were the 92 descriptive items. In the first analysis, the scores within each class were the mean item ratings of the descriptions of managers in general and alcoholic male managers. In the second analysis they were the mean item ratings of the descriptions of managers in general and alcoholic female managers. In the third analysis they were the mean item ratings of the descriptions of alcoholic male managers and alcoholic female managers. The larger the value of [r.sup.1], the more similar observations in the same class tend to be. Thus, the smaller the within-item variability, relative to the between-item variability, the greater the similarity between the mean item ratings of either the descriptions of managers in general and alcoholic male managers, and so forth.

Intra-class correlation coefficients and results of analyses of variance of mean item ratings for the total sample and for the male and female sub-samples are illustrated in Table 1.

For the total sample, there was a large and significant resemblance between the ratings of alcoholic female managers and alcoholic male managers ([r.sup.1] = .91, p [less than or equal to] .001) and a significant, though not as large resemblance between alcoholic female managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .33, p [less than or equal to] .01) and alcoholic male managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .27, p [less than or equal to] .05). The difference between the intraclass correlation coefficients for alcoholic female managers and managers in general and alcoholic male managers and managers in general were not significant (z =.43). In other words, although the sample saw a correspondence between alcoholic female managers and managers in general and alcoholic male managers and managers in general, neither was significantly stronger than the other. On the other hand, the difference between alcoholic female managers and managers in general and alcoholic female managers and alcoholic male managers was significant (z =12.50, p [less than or equal to] .001) as was the difference between alcoholic male managers and managers in general and alcoholic female managers and alcoholic male managers (z = 12.07, p [less than or equal to] .001). Put differently, it indicates that the sample did not discern a difference between a female manager who is an alcoholic or a male manager who is an alcoholic. They were seen as virtually identical in their characteristics as measured by the instrument; much more so than either alcoholic female or alcoholic male managers resembled managers in general.

Intra-class correlation coefficients were also computed separately for male and female respondents. Males saw no resemblance between alcoholic male managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .21, NS). However there was large and significant resemblance between alcoholic female managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .36, p [less than or equal to] .01) and alcoholic female managers and alcoholic males managers ([r.sup.1] = .86, p [less than or equal to] .001). Females saw significant resemblance between alcoholic male managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .31, p [less than or equal to] .01), smaller but significant resemblance between alcoholic female managers and managers in general ([r.sup.1] = .27, p [less than or equal to] .05), and large and significant resemblance between alcoholic female managers and alcoholic males managers ([r.sup.1] = .74, p [less than or equal to] .001).

Intra-class correlation coefficients were then compared between males and females. There were no significant differences between male and female respondents when comparing alcoholic male managers and managers in general or alcoholic female managers and managers in general. However, there was a significant difference when comparing alcoholic female managers to alcoholic male managers (z = 2.43, p [less than or equal to] .05). In other words, while both male and female respondents perceived little difference between alcoholic female managers, alcoholic male managers and managers in general, females perceived a significantly lower resemblance between alcoholic female managers and alcoholic male mangers than did the male respondents. One could conjecture that the male respondents would say that an alcoholic is an alcoholic regardless of sex. Female respondents, on the other hand, would probably contend that there are differences between alcoholics' characteristics based upon sex.

Reduced Version of the Measuring Instrument

An additional path of inquiry was also used in this study. Using Schein's 92-item Descriptive Questionnaire (1973), 120 graduating MBA students from a mid-sized university in the eastern part of the United States were asked to indicate whether they thought each of the 92 descriptive characteristics were positive, negative, or neutral. Scores of 1, 2, and 3 were assigned to positive, neutral, and negative ratings respectively. MBA students were chosen since they represent a group of potential candidates for management positions who, in the immediate future, have significant likelihood of becoming managers themselves. The average age was 26.7 years. The mean ratings for each item were calculated and codified. All the neutral items were discarded since they could not be used qualitatively to describe individuals positively or negatively. Consequently, only the characteristics with means below 1.5 (positive) and greater than 2.5 (negative) were considered for analysis. There were 70 such items of which 53 were positive and 17 were negative. The responses for each group of managers from the undergraduate sample were then analyzed to see how each group of managers (managers in general, alcoholic male managers and alcoholic female managers) compared on the positive and negative characteristics.

Results using the Reduced Version of the measuring instrument

In describing managers in general it was found that of the 53 positive characteristics, 49 could be applied. The 4 positive items that were seen not to be characteristic of managers in general were sympathetic, desire for friendship, not conceited about appearance, and sentimental. None of the negative items were seen to be representative of managers in general. For male alcoholic managers, 11 of the 53 positive traits were seen to apply. Of the negative items 9 of the 17 could be used to describe them. Female alcoholic managers were thought to possess 7 of the 53 positive items while 10 of the 17 negative items could be used to characterize them.

In the comparison between managers in general and male alcoholic managers, there were 47 significant differences (p [less than or equal to] .05) out of the 53 positive items. Managers were seen to have the higher scores. When making the comparison between managers in general and Female alcoholic managers, 44 of the positive items were shown to be significantly different. Managers were seen to have the higher scores in all but 2 items. When the male alcoholic managers were compared to the female alcoholic managers on the 53 positive items there were only 2 items that were significantly different (p [less than or equal to] .05) and both of these characteristics were higher for female alcoholic managers.

In the analysis of the 17 negative items comparing managers in general to both male alcoholic managers and female alcoholic managers, significant differences (p [less than or equal to] .05) were found. In the comparison of male alcoholic managers to mangers in general, all 17 of the negative items were seen as significantly different. The male alcoholic managers had higher scores on all items. When comparing the female alcoholic managers to managers in general, once again all 17 of the negative items were seen to be significantly different (p [less than or equal to] .05), with the female alcoholic managers having the higher scores. There were no significant differences (p [less than or equal to] .05) in the negative items when comparing the male alcoholic managers to the female alcoholic managers.

Discussion

The results of this study remind one of a famous quote by Gertrude Stein: "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," In the present case however, based on the perceptions of our student sample, one might replace "rose" with manager. Thus, our sample of budding business entrants seem to be saying: "manager is a manager is a manager is a manager." As one can enjoy a rose because of its innate beauty, one might also hold that all roses are not equal. Some have more prickly thorns than others or one variety might affect one's allergies more than another variety. Similarly, perceptions of managers can also be dichotomous.

Collegiate business students generally develop the idea that "manager" is synonymous with "boss." This impression is built and reinforced by the courses they take that convey the impression that managers are "the" decision makers in organizations. They are the movers and shakers; they determine what is to be done, how it is to be done and by whom it is to be done. They also determine who stays and who goes within the organization. This latter decision is usually based upon how usefully organization members fit the needs of the enterprise, often interpreted as how well they carry out the decisions of the managers. While the boss may not always be right, employees generally behave as if the boss is always right, not doing so only at their own risk. However, behaving in this manner may not be indicative of an individual's true estimation of the person to whom they are responsible.

Thus, while our sample indicates that managers, even alcoholic managers, possess legitimate authority and as such deserve (require) a certain amount of deference (as shown by the high correlation among all three classes of managers), it is the level of respect they hold that will probably determine how motivated they will be in carrying out the decisions of the "boss." The level of respect the sample possesses is the major differentiating quality of their responses. They do not accord the same merit to alcoholic managers that they confer on managers in general. Managers in general were seen to possess the "positive" characteristics and alcoholic managers were seen to posses the "negative" characteristics. Thus, we may conclude that while the perception of authority by this sample is demonstrated, the opposite may be said about the perception of respect. By and large, this particular sample did not identify alcoholic managers in the positive way they perceived managers in general.

Studies have shown that 2 of 5 U.S. college students will drink more than five alcoholic beverages in a row (Hoover, 2002). Similar studies in Canada have shown that 62.7% of polled students will consume five drinks in a sitting. (Center for Addiction and Mental Health, 2000) Given such information, it might have been reasonable to assume that the undergraduate respondents in this study might not be adverse to the consumption of alcohol. However, with this sample at least, such an assumption would seem to be erroneous.

What difference might this make? It is probably safe to say that one of the principle reasons individuals leave their employer is antipathy for the "boss"(Careers OnLine, 2005). Managers who are offensive, rude and domineering do little to instill loyalty and an enthusiastic impression toward the organization within the employee. Managers who are "flawed" (sic: alcoholic) may be more likely and more quickly categorized negatively precisely because of the perceived flaw. Respect on the part of the subordinate is thus jeopardized. It becomes more difficult to carry out the plans and cope with the evaluations of someone (male or female) the employee does not respect. The result may be a tripartite of unacceptable outcomes for the organization: low productivity, high absenteeism, and (eventually) high turnover.

Organizations need a heightened level of awareness when dealing with certain issues. In the case of alcoholic managers, they need to be cognizant of the feelings and perceptions of those who are subordinate to such individuals. Authority delegated to a manager may not be enough to engender the kind of motivation most enterprises expect, or at least hope for, from their employees. However, respect for someone cannot be commanded. Understanding and insight into alcoholism and alcoholics can best be attained by proactive developmental activities by the organizations. Such investments can pay inestimable benefits for the organization, the managers involved and, especially, for employees. This may be especially true for organizations seeking to keep themselves current by recruiting, hiring and retaining the brightest and best of new college talent.

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JAMES O. SMITH

T. D. GRIBBLE

JOSEPH TOMKIEWICZ

Department of Management, College of Business

East Carolina University
Table 1 (a)
Characteristics that are considered Positive

                                Managers      Alcoholic    Alcoholic
Characteristic                     in           Male        Female
                                 General      Managers     Managers

Consistent                        4.23         * 2.55       * 2.54
Sympathetic                       3.10           2.87         2.95
Adventurous                       3.25           3.01         2.93
Leadership ability                4.63         * 2.73       * 2.64
Values pleasant
surroundings                      3.63         # 3.00       # 3.17
Neat                              3.69         * 2.39       * 2.38
Creative                          3.64         * 2.86       * 2.77
Courteous                         3.63         * 2.82       * 2.85
Emotionally stable                3.78         * 1.94       * 1.98
Interested in own
appearance                        3.63         * 2.95     (a) 3.08
Independent                       3.96         * 3.12       * 2.94
Desire for friendship             3.17           3.32     (a) 3.61
Intelligent                       4.19         * 3.22       * 3.06
Persistent                        4.18         * 3.31       * 3.23
Objective                         4.00         * 2.91       * 2.96
Firm                              4.03         * 3.29       * 3.19
Prompt                            4.17         * 2.61       * 2.74
Intuitive                         3.90         * 2.80       * 2.74
Humanitarian values               3.41         * 2.74       * 2.81
Knows the way of the
world                             3.43           3.27         3.10
Industrious                       3.56         * 2.81       * 2.74
Well informed                     4.03         * 2.83       * 2.78
Ambitious                         4.12         * 2.80       * 2.87
Not conceited about
appearance                        2.94           3.24         3.17
Desires responsibility            4.22         * 2.88       * 2.87
Self controlled                   4.15         * 2.51       * 2.36
Modest                            3.21       (a) 2.77     (a) 2.75
Self-reliant                      3.90         * 2.71       * 2.70
Vigorous                          3.30         # 2.96         2.99
Sophisticated                     3.52         * 2.62       * 2.57
Analytical ability                3.76         * 2.92       * 2.91
Competitive                       4.18         * 3.51       * 3.37
Cheerful                          3.42         * 2.59         2.86
Able to separate
  feelings from ideas             3.77         * 2.63       * 2.50
Competent                         4.04         * 3.01       * 2.96
Understanding                     3.86         * 3.04       * 3.17
Sociable                          3.79           3.27         3.46
High self-regard                  3.75         * 2.73       * 2.66
Grateful                          3.37           2.82         3.03
Aware of feelings                 3.35           2.74     (a) 2.87
  of others
Decisive                          3.91         * 2.78       * 2.78
Direct                            4.17         * 3.53       * 3.39
Self-confident                    4.20         * 2.61       * 2.79
Sentimental                       2.75         * 2.55         2.93
Steady                            3.73         * 2.39       * 2.39
Assertive                         3.97         * 3.04       * 3.07
Tactful                           3.82         * 2.71       * 2.86
Helpful                           4.03         * 2.79       * 3.16
Strong need for achievement       4.25         * 3.27       * 3.36
Generous                          3.32           2.80         3.11
Logical                           4.05         * 2.65       * 2.76
Skilled in business matters       4.37         * 2.99       * 2.96
Kind                              3.50           2.96       # 3.14

* p [less than or equal to].0001

^ p [less than or equal to].001

(a) p [less than or equal to].01

# p [less than or equal to].05

Table 1 (b) Characteristics that are considered Negative

                           Managers     Alcoholic    Alcoholic
                                 in         Male       Female
Characteristic             General      Managers     Managers

Fearful                         2.44      * 3.22       * 3.44
Uncertain                       2.06      * 3.52       * 3.72
Submissive                      2.24    (a) 2.79       * 2.96
Devious                         2.25      * 3.27       * 3.19
Frivolous                       2.52        3.02         3.06
Dawdler and
procrastinator                  1.88      * 3.51       * 3.56
Quarrelsome                     2.20      * 3.52       * 3.56
Hasty                           2.68      * 3.29       * 3.38
Timid                           2.13      * 2.80       * 2.96
Wavering in decision            2.39      * 3.32       * 3.38
Vulgar                          1.98      * 3.49       * 3.27
Easily influenced               2.14      * 3.31       * 3.62
Passive                         2.30        2.84       * 2.76
Nervous                         2.16      * 3.47       * 3.75
Deceitful                       2.07      * 3.09       * 3.06
Bitter                          1.99      * 3.39       * 3.36
Selfish                         2.50      * 2.96       * 3.14

* p [less than or equal to] .0001

^ p [less than or equal to] .001

(a) p [less than or equal to] .01

# p [less than or equal to] .05
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Author:Smith, James O.; Gribble, T.D.; Tomkiewicz, Joseph
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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