Women: Learn to Understand Your Emotions In the Workplace

Last week I was on overdrive. I had a slew of non-stop visitors staying with me, I was worried about moving and I was tired. At work I’ve been involved in some new projects that have been exciting, new and we’ve all been learning a lot. Nonetheless, frustrations ensue through the challenges.

I felt my Italian blood boiling one morning and my boss could tell. He (my boss) manages four women. We’re good friends and a strong team that works well together, hikes in the morning before work and understand each other.  I was trying to remain calm but was also honest about my frustrations.

Most of us probably spend more time at work than with our families and loved ones. It isn’t your life, but it becomes part of it. A few months back I went through a troubling personal time and my boss and best friends at work knew about it. We’re not machines, we’re human. I still performed at 100% even though inside, I was hurting and all I wanted to do was crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head. I felt cloudy sometimes at work and I didn’t want it to affect my worklife but sometimes the line becomes blurry.

When Emotion Works

Women hear it all the time. We’re called “emotional,” and it’s a flaw that we should overcome. I believe that emotion in the workplace isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Emotion can be seen as passion and tenacity that drives success. Emotional Intelligence, popularized by author Daniel Goleman in the mid-1990s, emphasizes that learning how to become emotionally attuned to ourselves and our colleagues can prove a key factor in our professional success.


Photo Credit: dno1967

Inc. Magazine’s, Nan Mooney talks about being a woman and that “there’s a big difference between becoming emotionally attuned and getting rid of emotional reactions entirely. Instead of fearing our hearts and loving our heads, it’s time women started looking at when it’s okay to show feeling at work, when we need to rein it in, and how to tell the difference.”

How Emotional Is Too Emotional?

Let’s say at work you’ve worked on a project for months. You stay up late each night and pour your heart and soul into the project to present for a client. You present the project, competing against other co-workers’. Yours isn’t picked. All you can think of doing is crying, you’re so let down. Not every woman will react this way, but chances are you will feel dejected. Men would most likely feel very much let down, but they might react by swearing, hitting the the steering wheel, or inner rage rather than dissolving into tears. This is still a reaction driven by emotion, just different.

I’m raising my hand and admitting that women are generally more emotional than men on the job. We live in a society that encourages women to be the feelers and nurturers and men the thinkers and doers. “But being quicker to key into the emotional aspects of a situation largely works to our benefit. It means we may pick up on a client’s or colleague’s unhappiness, make subtle adjustments in a plan or project to please everyone involved, and — best of all — form more trusting and respectful professional relationships,” says Mooney.

Too much emotion can be seen as negative when women aren’t sure of how to handle emotional situations properly.

Understand your emotions

Consider understanding how you react to frustrating situations, being yelled at, making a mistake, suffering a personal blow at home then feeling it while at work, etc. Take time for yourself in the bathroom, outside of your office. Take deep breathes. I know that if I ever sobbed at my desk, my co-workers would feel compassion (believe me, some of us have cried at work) but I don’t think it should happen frequently. However, I don’t want to work in an environment that lacks compassion for the human emotion. Learning to divide between emotion, fact and professionalism creates strength. I’m still learning how to divide.

In the New York Times, Stephanie Rosenbloom cites the reaction of Martha Stewart in NBC’s “Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” in which a woman on the losing team told Stewart that she felt like crying. Stewart showed no sympathy and bluntly replied, “Cry and you are out of here. Women in business don’t cry, my dear.”

Penelope Trunk debunks the myth, “Don’t Cry At Work,” from her personal experience of shedding tears, working amongst men her whole life, failing and succeeding.  I’m with her. I’m not a blubbering mess, but sometimes I express myself. Trunk concludes, “So let’s just stop telling women to be men at work. No point. People who do best in their careers are people who are their true selves.”

What do you think? Should women feel free to express themselves at work? Have you cried at work or seen a co-worker cry? Does your perception of their capabilities change once you see evoked emotion?

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