Impact of manager sex on employee ideas: Towards a social psychological theory of idea quality



Employee idea generation is the crucial first step in organizational innovation. Employees vary widely in the quality of ideas they provide, i.e. in the extent to which their ideas are new and a significant departure from the mundane or the status quo (high in novelty and creativity), and could be implemented successfully (high in usefulness and low in uncertainty). In this paper, we draw on prior research on role congruity theory on gender-based stereotypes and biased evaluations of women in leadership positions to show that manager characteristics have downstream consequences for the quality of ideas that employees provide to them. Specifically, we demonstrate that employees with female managers provide lower quality ideas compared to those with male managers. Further, because creative ideas are typically presented to the immediate manager and aim at bringing about change in the organization, we show that the extent to which employees identify with these two foci—i.e. identification with the manager, and with the organization—moderate the effects of manager sex on employee idea quality. We test our hypotheses using a quasi-field-study conducted on 221 executive MBA students and a field study on 84 employees in a manufacturing organization in India. In doing so, we explicate the social psychological antecedents of creativity and extend research on gender-based stereotypes and biases against female managers, as well as provide recommendations for management practice.