There’s a razor-thin line between an emotional nut-job and a robot, at least for women at the office. It’s a horrible stereotype of powerful women that we can only be at the extremes of the emotional spectrum. Either we cry during meetings and take everything personally or we have zero compassion and treat everyone like crap. In the business world, it’s hard to make people see that the average woman fits somewhere in between those two poles.
Working women everywhere are concerned with the balancing act required to avoid both labels, crybaby and ice queen. We work our butts off to evoke an even-tempered, almost zen-like calm and level-headedness. But instead of guaging every response for the appropriate level of enthusiasm and frustration, I have a new way to handle my emotions. I’ve realized, it isn’t that women aren’t supposed to show any emotion at all. The reason that there’s such a thin line is because business only has room for a couple types of emotion. Most of them get in the way, but just a few are useful.[tagbox tag="emotions in the workplace"]
It was never a question of how much or how little emotion, we all should have been asking which feelings we were supposed to express! Here are the conclusions I’ve come to so far.
- Happiness: Not Allowed. This is the trickiest one for me. Too much happiness can communicate “Bubbly Cheerleader” to a group of employers or co-workers who need to see you as a professional. It may seem odd to curb your inner optimism, but happiness is definitely an emotion that get women in to trouble. However, it’s like you can’t ever crack a smile. There is one positive emotion allowed in upper management…
- Triumphant: Allowed. So you can’t be cheery. But victorious and proud are completely acceptable. In fact, taking pride in your accomplishments is definitely a necessity to show everyone that you’re confident in your abilities. Remember, weakness is not an option here.
- Sadness: Only For Others. Another confusing emotion here. If a woman gets sad about something that happens to her, it’s definitely crybaby territory. However, if you don’t show empathy or compassion to those around you, then you must be a bitch. The only lesson to draw here is that you’re allowed to be sad, as long as it’s for someone else’s struggles, instead of your own.
- Anger: Allowed. The anger needs to come from a place of passion. It needs to seem like you really care about whatever pissed you off. Cold anger is the mark of a bitch. Passionate anger is the mark of a charismatic leader who feels committed to their company and their reputation.
- Fear: Never. Remember that touching quote about, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the belief that something is more important”? That doesn’t apply to the office. Being afraid of anything shows that you aren’t in control of the situation.