Think About It: OIWC asks, ladies, are you angry at work?
While most people in the workforce today would agree that there's nothing like a job to get you riled, it turns out that showing anger can actually be detrimental to a woman's livelihood. A recently released study reveals that men and women who showed anger in the workplace were perceived, treated and compensated in very different ways. In fact, while a man may be admired for getting angry at work, a woman who shows anger is likely to be seen as incompetent and "out of control." In addition, the angry woman may have a harder time receiving an elevated status at work -- and equal compensation.
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While most people in the workforce today would agree that there’s nothing like a job to get you riled, it turns out that showing anger can actually be detrimental to a woman’s livelihood. A recently released study reveals that men and women who showed anger in the workplace were perceived, treated and compensated in very different ways. In fact, while a man may be admired for getting angry at work, a woman who shows anger is likely to be seen as incompetent and “out of control.” In addition, the angry woman may have a harder time receiving an elevated status at work — and equal compensation.
The study’s results, presented by Yale University post-doctoral scholar Victoria Brescoll in the research paper — “When Can Angry Women Get Ahead?” — were based on three tests in which randomly recruited men and women watched videos of a job interview and rated the applicant’s status and assigned them a salary.
The first test showed candidates talking from identical scripts, except for a few that also spoke about being angry or sad at losing an account due to a colleague’s late arrival at a meeting. The results showed that participants assigned the most status on the man who said he was angry, the second most on the woman who said she was sad, and the least (by a sizable margin) on the woman who indicated she was angry. The effects were also extended to salaries, with the average man given a pay of $38,000, while the angry woman was assigned only $23,500.
When the script changed in the second experiment to include executives and trainees, participants rated the angry female CEO as significantly less competent than all other applicants. In this test, unemotional women were assigned an average salary of over $55,000, compared to nearly $33,000 for the angry interviewees. Male executives pulled down the best salary — more than $73,000 — regardless of anger level.
Lest one lose all hope of equality and fairness in the workplace, the third and final experiment in this study actually showed that the angry woman who had a good reason to be feeling so was assigned a much higher salary than the angry woman who provided no good reasoning for her emotion.
Brescoll recently told Reuters that her findings “revealed a difficult paradox for professional women — while anger can serve as a powerful tool to achieve status at work, women may have to behave calmly in order to be seen as rational.”
Fair or not, these findings may hold true in your own workplace and awareness of this issue might hold the key to your success. “Human emotion within limits is acceptable in the workplace,” said Robin Ryan, a career coach who has appeared on “Oprah” and “NBC Nightly News” and written “Soaring on Your Strengths” (Penguin, 2006). “Where it’s a huge problem is when it’s out of control, like screaming at a staff person, yelling at a client or reaming out the distribution people.”
Ryan’s top tip for on-the-job anger management is to simply walk away. “If you’re really angry, just walk away, call a friend or run around,” she offered. “Let it sit. There is nothing that can’t wait for an hour.”
She also suggested calling a friend that does not work inside the organization. “Don’t talk to a colleague because, most likely, they are going to blab,” she said.
In general, Ryan said if you are having issues with anger, you might need some counseling to get you through it. “Anger comes from a combination of your work and personal life,” she said. “Maybe you’re going through a divorce or have a sick kid or sick husband. No matter what the cause, you need to get your house in order. In today’s workplace, no one likes conflict — anger scares them.”
The end result for women showing anger at work, in many cases, can be a cap on a promising career. “If you are a tension-producer, you are not going to be promoted or picked to be on projects,” she added.
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Erinn Morgan is an award-winning magazine editor, whose work — which focuses on outdoor sports, adventure travel, gear and sustainability — has appeared in magazines from National Geographic Adventure and Outside to Bike and Skiing.