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Surprise, Surprise: Men Are Nearly Three Times More Emotional Than Women at Work

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Jan. 16 2020, Updated 11:53 a.m. ET

A new survey has found that men are more emotional than women at work. By a lot. Who knew? Here's who knew: every single woman. Every single woman who has been in any situation with a man, whether at work or not, knows this. While this may not be a surprise (to women, at least), the reasons for it are still worth discussing.

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Women are conditioned to de-escalate and remain calm even while others around her lose their minds. When women show emotion, we are considered "difficult" or "bitchy" or "crazy." Men have said for centuries that women are "too emotional" to lead, that we would start wars because of our periods! But it's so not true it's painful. Men have proven time and again that their emotions and insecurities get the best of them and lead to drastic behavior. The male ego is responsible for so much war, for example. And now, research pretty much confirms that. 

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Total Jobs surveyed 2,250 UK workers and managers about emotions in the workplace. It's an interesting topic because the way people act in offices and other workplaces is complicated by "our notions of professionalism, capability, and status." If you've been in a work situation, you know the pressure to button up and remain professional when you may be feeling like you want to burst. 

Researchers found the majority of causes for people becoming emotional at work are interactions with the other people they work with, not work tasks. One in three people said emotional events at work are "triggered by a colleague." This checks out. People with different temperaments, work styles, and priorities come together every day in the workplace. 

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But then came the kicker. The survey "discovered that men may be far more emotionally sensitive in the workplace than women. Men were more than twice as likely to get emotional because their 'ideas weren't heard' or because they 'were criticized.'" Men were also nearly three times more likely to get emotional "because a project went over budget, missed a deadline, or got canceled." This is hilarious to me, as there is an epidemic in workplaces of women not getting credit for their ideas and not being heard precisely because they're women. You'd think this would make them emotional — even more emotional than men, even.

But it doesn't. Women have learned to leave their anger brimming under the surface, another finding of the survey. While men were more outwardly emotional, women were found to be 25 percent more stressed out at work than men. Sure, most people surveyed, regardless of gender, had reservations about which emotions were acceptable to display in a work environment.

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But more women than men felt they had to conceal their frustration, anger, or sadness. Therefore, it's not actually the case that women are less emotional than men in the workplace; it's just that they feel more societal pressure not to show their emotions. Women have gotten really good at bottling it up and smiling to make sure they're seen as agreeable and easy to work with.

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In fact, the survey found women are feeling just as angry as men at work, but men express more anger at work than women. Similarly, women actually feel more sadness than men do, but they don't show it as much. Researchers make a point to note this is not a difference in physiology between men and women. These are norms entirely dictated by society. 

Terri Simpkin, a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University and the author of the research findings, said, "Men are more likely to report experiencing emotions associated with power, such as anger or pride. In fact, emotions and power are inextricably linked. Not being heard is congruent with lacking in status. Similarly, sadness is associated with a lack of power in social settings." 

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And indeed, the survey found women more likely to report experiencing emotions "associated with lack of power, such as fear, sadness, shame, and guilt," while men were more likely to report feeling anger and pride, two emotions associated with power.

emotional men
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Who knows? If the patriarchy wasn't a thing and women were respected as equals from day one, the data would most likely be completely different. But there's no way to know how emotional women and men actually are at their core, stripped of societal expectations. Women are told to bow our heads and not make a fuss, and men are told they have to yell and scream to be seen as important.

The only thing we do know for sure is that centuries of toxic assumptions about both men and women have manifested in wildly harmful workplace traditions of behavior and emotion that only serve to tamp down women. There's no erasing the past, only the painstaking untangling of it as we press forward.

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