Leadership

#Leadership: Emotions, Anger and Gender

Men can get angry at work, but women can’t. Really. A recent study from Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann supports this fact.

Adult men and women were shown videotapes of both men and women who were being interviewed for a job. In the interviews they described a situation in which they lost a major client to a colleague. The interviewee was either sad or angry as a result of this situation.

Angry men were assigned more status, salary and competence than sad men by both men and women observing the interviews. The angry men were also assigned more status, salary and competence than the angry women.

Respondents were asked whether the anger was due to the person (“she/he became angry because of his/her personality” or “she/he is an angry person”) or if it was due to the situation (“she/he became angry because of the situation” or “her/his colleague’s behaviour caused her/his anger”).  Participants were more likely to believe that women’s anger was due to her personality, while men’s anger was due to the situation.Thus, women were incompetent and out of control when angry, while men were competent and justified in their anger.

So does it matter what occupational rank the woman holds? Rank (e.g. CEO as compared to trainee) did not change participants assessment that angry women were less competent, deserved a lower salary or had lower status.  If anything, higher ranking women who expressed anger were judged more harshly in terms of competence.

If women provided a reason for her anger, she received  higher status, was attributed a higher salary, but it did not “influence perceptions of her competence” as compared to a women who did not provide a reason for her anger. She was still perceived as being less competent than an angry man.

Interestingly, if a man provided a reason for his anger, his attributed status and salary were LOWER than a man who did not provide a reason for his anger. In other words, we don’t expect men to explain or justify their anger.

The authors suggest that these results fit with the theory of “emotional display rules”. In other words, there are certain emotions that men are allowed to display, and certain emotions that women are allowed to display. If these rules are violated, both men and women seem to be judged harshly. Men are not allowed to be sad, or to apologize.  Women are not allowed to be angry.

As sad as this makes me, this is what it is. It’s way beyond my pay grade to try to change eons of history. It means that, whether I like it or not, this is the world in which I live. While I want to bemoan the unfairness of it all, to quote my dad, “life is not fair”.

Source:

Brescoll, Victoria L., and Eric Luis Uhlmann. “Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead? Status Conferral, Gender, and Expression of Emotion in the Workplace.” Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell) 19, no. 3 (March 2008): 268–275.
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3 replies »

  1. Quoted: “As sad as this makes me, this is what it is. It’s way beyond my pay grade to try to change eons of history. It means that, whether I like it or not, this is the world in which I live. While I want to bemoan the unfairness of it all, to quote my dad, “life is not fair”.”

    I’m sorry but is this really where you are going to end this post? You write as if there is no hope for the future, as if social norms are so ingrained in each of our psyches that it is impossible to ever escape from them. It sounds to me like you’ve given up before the going even got tough.

    My issue is that this attitude of stating how things are and not how they could be is one of the largest road blocks in modern day social movements. Before you can even begin to make a difference, you have to believe that you can make a difference. This is the issue of the Shadow-Beast, the Coatlicue as Gloria Anzaldua talks about it, in which we become so terrified of our inner demons, thanks to a socio-historical climate forced down our throats, that we cannot overcome our own fears of incompetence. We have to be able to accept our inner demons as real and as powerful, as an example of who we are and what that really makes us. Then we can see that what we believe to be true about ourselves is actually that perpetuation of our demons as monstrous, when in reality, it is only other people who see it as a monster threatening their lifestyle, their socially broken world that works for them but not for others.

    Returning to primary issue of giving up, It’s not as if each generation to come is guaranteed to think equivalently to the past. There’s plenty of generational evidence to show that generations do change over time.

    However if we allow for social prejudices to persist because we recognize them as real, then of course they will be perpetuated as real. Society is amorphous because, in terms of mentality, we have the ability to recognize and make an active effort to change it, or we have the ability to allow it to continue as is.

    To ever stop in believing that change is possible is the biggest mistake you can make, because it is exactly why what you say is true. This is how it is, this is how it has always been, is exactly because we have always let it be.

    I’m not saying it’s easy for one person either. I’m saying that you shouldn’t talk about this subject like you’re the only person invovled. Life is a business just as much as any other business is.

  2. […] Aristoteles even considered that the opposite of anger was insensibility and David Hume expressed that the lack of anger “is sometimes evidence of weakness and imbecility”. But for sure, they were both (at least) writing for men. And men can not only express anger but they are not even supposed to explain or justify it. […]

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