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Emotions at the Workplace: Which Ones Are Allowed?

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 levelheadedness. But instead of gauging 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.

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 coworkers who need to see you as a professional. It may seem odd to curb your inner optimism, but happiness is definitely an emotion that gets women into trouble. However, it’s not 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.
See how sadness, anger, and fear fit in at the workplace.

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It Turns Out You Don't Have to Act Like an Emotionless Robot at Work Anymore