Is it getting easier to show emotions at work?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seated before testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya in the Rayburn House Office Building on January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.

We all spend a lot of time at work. Sometimes stuff happens that drives us nuts, and maybe we lose our tempers or shed a tear or two. We’re human.

But traditionally, strong emotions and the workplace do not go together. Research shows women in particular are judged when they emote at the office, and it may affect their career progress.

Caroline Turner was always careful to hide her emotions from her bosses. When she went to work for a big beer company, she was the first woman to enter the C-suite. She was used to the stresses of corporate life. But occasionally a situation would blow up, and she’d feel that telltale lump at the back of her throat. Tears would start to well up.

"I recall first time I did it in the corporate world, I was angry," she says. "And my way of expressing anger, because I couldn’t stomp and yell, was often through tears."

She always tried to quell them – with varying success. These days, she runs a company called Difference Works. She counsels companies on how to use men’s and women’s different styles to advantage. She still advises women to hold the tears till they get to the bathroom. 

"The workplace is based on masculine norms," says Turner. "Women come into the workplace with our differences, and the world has defined professionalism and leadership in that masculine way, which is ‘leave the emotions in the parking lot'."

Turner says that’s a shame, but it’s reality.

Many women can attest that getting upset at work affects how others see you.

When Hillary Clinton got angry during questioning at last year’s hearings on the U.S. diplomatic mission attack in Benghazi, she garnered a lot of press. She’s not the only woman to draw negative attention for losing her temper. Yale University research shows women who express anger at work are seen as less competent, less worthy of a raise, and out of control. But men who show anger? They don’t lose status. Their anger is put down to external factors.

Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Studies at Stanford University, says that double standard has always been a problem for women.

"Even if they do the exact same thing as a man, even if they display the exact same emotion, it gets interpreted differently."

Cooper, who was the lead researcher on Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, says she’d like to "work towards a system where women don’t have to work so hard just to be taken seriously – where when people cry, it’s not perceived as a weakness, it’s not perceived as being too emotional."

John Gerzema says we’re getting there – slowly. He’s the co-author of The Athena Doctrine: How Women and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule the Future. For his research he polled 64,000 people about various human values and traits.  He says expressiveness is seen as a vital characteristic for a leader.

"I think this is really about getting to see the true, authentic person," he says. "We’re looking for leaders that are actually themselves."

He says young leaders are themselves at the office. Corporate America won’t go touchy-feely overnight. But Gerzema says the time will come when we can all let a few more feelings show at work.

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women and the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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It is not just about the questions if it is easier to show or not it is about its functionality. Emotion can be considered being the engine for your individual growth or development. Laughter and sorrow may be the 2 pure extreme emotions (birth & death) all in between can be attributed to ego, no matter what state or form. The intelligence emerging out of these emotions is dealing with them in a better way, a more autonomous, souvereign and pure. Like Gandhi ever said (as an example) : "Anger is for human like fuel is for the engine." So transform egoistic emotions into pure emotions and you're set free. (book : http://goo.gl/KtBpXN)

I thought that this would be a report that does not indignify women.

I think that both men and women should feel free to cry at times, but this segment puts the matter in a self-defeating context. Caroline Turner seems to take the fact that women are different and use it as a crutch. This type of thing is what destroyed the objectives of 70s feminist movement and it is why in today's modern world, women in certain occupations still earn less than men, and there is still a great dearth of women in science and engineering . So-called "new feminists" began to say things like the violence and aggression of men is not a good thing and that women are in fact superior for their "gentleness."
It seems a short-term issue but has very long term repercussions.
"Masculine norms"? I am tired of hearing women say that when women have to be less feminine in a workplace, it means that it is oppression of women.

I don't understand how I (Caroline Turner) use difference as a crutch or what is self-defeating here. I would never suggest that either masculine or feminine (ways of thinking or behaving) is superior. The world and the workplace need both. It is just a fact that men got to the workplace first -- and it reflects more masculine ways. Women need to understand that in order to succeed. That doesn't make it oppression. The point of this piece is just to point out that men and women may be judged differently for the same behavior -- crying or showing anger. I happen to think that the workplace will improve when appropriate expression of emotions is allowed by both.

Without judging the merits of this piece, which I heard this afternoon while in my car, I have an entirely different take on Hillary Clinton's angry reaction during the incessant Benghazi conspiracy witch hunt. I liked it. I'd never seen her angry like that before and I applauded her, then, as I do now, for pushing back against those disrespectful Congress persons. It's one thing to be tough;it's altogether another thing to treat persons deserving of respect with total disrespect. She went up a couple of notches in my estimation and I've not heard that she received bad marks for her angry pushback. (although the fact that if a man did this, I daresay there would have been no reaction whatsoever). What I'd like to know is from whom? And, did someone poll reaction to her reaction? Perhaps you've links?

Whether covering the members of the US women's hockey team reacting to their loss to Canada or executives in the boardroom, the media are tending to make this a neat and tidy male-female issue. This is not the right way to go with this; emotions are messy. From a young age, boys are trained not to cry--and MOM usually leads the training. Girls who cry are not chastised for doing so, and often get the credit later in life for being emotionally mature. It is interesting that Ms. Milne-Tyte referred to former Secretary of State Clinton's angry reaction during the Libya hearings and how observers deemed her reaction a bad thing. But not too long ago, during her presidential bid, Mrs. Clinton's teary reaction and answer to a question from the audience was highly praised and followed by her best primary results. Why was this not mentioned? Emotions are complicated, folks. And people usually respond to an emotional display with ones of their own. When the members of leadership in my various workplaces lost their cool, I have been much more interested in trying to determine how clearly a manager was able to think and act in dealing with a charged situation than how any particular emotions were expressed. You may need to do a few more pieces to tease this out a bit more.

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