09/09/2013 07:51 EDT | Updated 11/09/2013 05:12 EST

Worrying Hurts Women's Career Chances: Study

How do you react when faced with stress in the workplace? Do you take a step back to study the situation or do you charge full steam ahead? Most female executives apparently retreat to analyze their options while their male counterparts charge right ahead and take the bull by the horns, so to speak. The approach that women leaders take is detrimental to their career.

This was the gist of the study conducted by the CDR Assessment Group. Their study measured the risk factors that undermined performance of 137 female leaders and 123 male leaders in 35 companies, mostly in the United States. The eleven risk factors described in their CDR Leadership Risk Assessment instrument are the false advocate, worrier, cynic, rule breaker, perfectionist, egotist, pleaser, hyper-moody, detached, upstager and eccentric.

The study revealed that the women executives in their sample were worriers. Based on the CDR Leadership Risk Assessment instrument, worriers are not willing to make decisions out of fear that they will fail or will get criticized. "Worriers impede progress, over-study, over-review, and slow down performance. Worriers are not decisive, seem to lack courage, and fail to adapt promptly to changing demands."

In the face of conflict and pressure in the workplace, however, male leaders leaned more towards the scale of egotists, rule breakers, and upstagers. The scale describes an egotist as a "hard-nosed competitor" who takes credit for the work of others. Rule breakers, meanwhile, test limits and even jeopardize the firm's resources. Upstagers are those who "dominate meetings and air time."

While all these traits can hinder one's career, the perception of women as worriers tend to limit their opportunities for career advancement. President and Xo-Founder of CDR Assessment Group Nancy Parsons writes, "A fearful, cautious and moving-away-from-conflict approach results in women being judged as lacking courage and confidence. This behavior is contrary to the expectation that leaders need to tackle tough issues and to manage conflict productively." On the other hand, the risks displayed by male executives are seen "as more acceptable for the leader track."

Parson does not mince words when she further sums up the findings in her firm's study. She writes, "Bottom line: Under pressure many women default to self-defeating, diminishing behaviors that take them out of the leadership limelight and pipeline. Women, by their own ineffective coping strategies, often pull themselves out of the running."

However, Parsons says that that this knowledge is actually good news. Now that the findings reveal why women are held back, strategies and solutions can be implemented in the workplace to help them manage stress and conflict more productively. Developmental support in the form of individual assessments and coaching can help women cope so that their tendency to worry will not undermine their ascent to positions of leadership.

Written by Nicel Jane Avellana, contributor at r/ally, the mobile collaboration platform that lets you socialize your goals.