Overt Emotions and the Workplace
“You would cry too if it happened to you”
Yes, I might, but I would do it in private because overt emotional reactions to situations do not belong in the workplace.
Here in Queensland, Australia we have had disastrous flooding recently. The situation has played out like two sides of a coin; one side is full of loss, grief, pain and disbelief; whilst the other side of the coin has seen some inspirational leadership by our female Prime Minister and Premier.
Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland (pictured), has been praised for her quick response, rational approach, logical actions, detailed understanding and regular communication with the people affected. The Premier delivered regular press conferences throughout the crisis where she briefed the people of Queensland in a calm, controlled way.
One recent press conference, amidst the worst of the devastation, she almost broke down. Her voice cracked and her eyes filled with tears as she talked about the strength of Queenslanders. She managed to compose herself quickly and continued. Anna Bligh later apologized for her emotional reaction but I think it only strengthened her position in the eyes of the state. It showed that she really did care.
This brings me to my point – overt emotions are only ever OK in the face of an absolute emergency in a work situation. Any other time, it is never OK to cry, shout or show any other type of overt emotional response in a work situation.
If you do cry openly at work it is likely to be interpreted in the following ways:
- She can’t cope with the situation
- She could never be a strong leader or role model
- She can’t manage her stress levels
- She cannot be relied upon
- She is not up to the task
Add to this the fact that people will treat you differently after your outburst (they will be reluctant to say or do anything for fear you will get upset) and it is just not worth it.
Consider this. A male colleague shouts at a team member when he gets angry, stressed, or tired. He lets his emotions take over. A woman who cries in front of a team member when she gets angry, stressed, or tired. She lets her emotions take over. The situations are not much different yet, as women, we often seem to be much less accepting of shouting than we are of crying. I wonder why?
As women, we cannot afford to cry at work and as people we cannot afford to display any overt emotional reaction to workplace issues and incidents. We do ourselves a huge disservice if we do. If you have to let off steam, I recommend the bathroom as a great place to do just that!
So, how do you manage your emotions so you avoid outbursts? Well, that’s another post!