IT Employment

Anger in the office: Its effect could depend on your gender

A new study from Yale University indicates that men who get angry in the workplace are seen in a better light than women who get angry. Here are the details.

I just finished reading about a study on anger in the workplace that made me angry. I hate it when that happens.

Victoria Brescoll, a post-doctoral scholar at Yale University, has just published a research paper called "When Can Angry Women Get Ahead?" She conducted three experiments with randomly recruited men and women in which they were shown videos of a job interview and asked to rate the applicants' status and assign them salaries.

In the first test, the scripts were the same except for one point in which the candidate described feeling either angry or sad about losing an account due to a colleague being late to a meeting.

Here's how the candidates fared in the eyes of the test group: The guy who said he was angry about the loss of an account received the highest status. The remaining order was:

  • Woman who said she was sad.
  • Man who said he was sad.
  • Woman who said she was angry.

In a second test, the script was similar except that the job applicant also described his or her current occupation as a trainee or a senior executive.

Guess who was rated significantly less competent than all the others? Yup, the angry female CEO. Brescoll noted that the group said they viewed angry females as significantly more "out of control."

A third experiment tested whether a good reason for anger made any difference. The script was altered so that some angry candidates explained that the coworker who arrived late had lied, indicating he had directions to the meeting.

The men, once again, came out on top in terms of status/competence assigned by the group. But the angry woman with a good reason to be angry was awarded a much higher salary than the angry woman who provided no excuse. One conclusion drawn was that women who have anger flare-ups fare better if they give a good excuse for the anger. But here's the kicker: The survey found that men who try to explain their actions after a workplace tantrum actually undermine their status among coworkers.

The study will be presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, a research and teaching organization with nearly 17,000 members.

Brescoll said that the findings revealed a "difficult paradox" for professional women -- while, for men, anger can serve as a powerful tool to achieve status at work, women may have to be more serene in order to be seen as rational.

Rational or not, I feel like throwing a chair.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

24 comments
jdclyde
jdclyde

need to stop running tests on yourselves! B-) I wonder if a similar study done by a man would field the same results? I have long seen where women are typically more critical of other women. Is this another case? Something done only three times is hardly conclusive of anything.

tracyle
tracyle

OK. I think I've got this right... Just be angry, without explanation, and I'll be viewed as more competent or better... I think I can manage that! (LOL)

SaraVN
SaraVN

The owner was berating me (again!) this time because I "immaturely" communicated with him and his sons about a major change that he requested. The week before he was berating me because, he says, I'm a poor communicator that avoids dealing with people. It's crazy because I've always been told I'm a great communicator, great with people (for an IT person), and very mature for my age. While these interactions make me angry, and make for a bad work environment, it's he that looks insane. Another example? He has said to both me and my boss (also a female), to our faces, that we don't know anything about business (my boss ran her own company for 20 years) we only know how to program (I can't program!) and we IT people are always trying to make things more complicated by taking so many things into consideration. When I sit back, all I can say is "Wow".

babycody
babycody

What about the situation a man faces if he has a disagreement with a female coworker, and she turns on the water works. Just as this study implies that people might not want to see a woman angry, you can bet they definitely don't want to see a man cry. Many men hate having a conflict with a female coworker, because they feel like they're already on the losing end of the stick. If the boss is a woman then you worry that she will take the side of the female employee, since women tend to stick together better than men. If your boss is a man then you worry he'll feel you are being too harsh toward the female employee. Where if she were a man your boss wouldn't have so much as blinked twice if you got upset. So maybe the people in the survey were just thinking about what I stated. They might not want to take a chance on working with someone who they might not get along with later. Many men feel that they have to get along with ALL female coworkers. Let's not forget the sexual discrimination card that the boss has to worry about. A card very few men ever get to use. I would like to see video of the guys and gals in this study. Some people just naturally give off a bad vibe. I might not have anything to do with their gender. Don't let one study distract from the fact that each person taking the survey had a lifetime of experiences to draw from. It would be better to ask what is it about those experiences that led them to their opinions about the females and males. Just remember that the next time a man is friendly to you at work might be because he feels powerless in a conflict against you. Better to bite your tongue and smile than give up your career. The entire time I've been typing this all I've had in the back of my mind is the back lash it might create from the female bloggers. I wouldn't have worried about being as brutally honest in a conversation about men. That shows an uneasiness on my part when it comes to a confrontation with women.

rhonda.russ
rhonda.russ

Honestly, now, this study was a waste of money. Any woman and a lot of men could tell you this.

jacksonb
jacksonb

Ok that makes me angry too! I guess I better not say that to anyone though? What a ridiculous world we live in.

ApplSecurityGeek
ApplSecurityGeek

This is another manifestation of the double standard that women have struggled with for decades; we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. A justifiably angry man is seen as a strong leader; a justifiably angry woman is seen as an emasculating "witch." A man who does not react with anger is an even-keeled good guy, while a woman who reacts in the same way is scorned as a spineless pushover. It is especially bad in industries heavily infested with a "good ol' boy" mentality. One of my former managers and I talked about it a lot, because he does not fit the "good ol' boy" stereotype either, and he conceded that it is nearly impossible for a woman to get ahead in this kind of work environment. I decided long ago that I was not going to put on a fake persona and stress myself out walking an impossibly fine line just to get ahead here. The peace of mind I get from being genuine is far more valuable to me.

Litehouse
Litehouse

Was there a difference in how the women scored the interviewers, versus how the men scored them? I'm curious to see if the opinions were the same across genders. Thanks

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

need something to test and analyze. We finished with 'you doods' decades ago! ;)

cdpitcock
cdpitcock

I may just have to slap you in a fit of immature anger! Besides I need the exercise.

cdpitcock
cdpitcock

I was a great programmer for years before this BS finally got to me. I worked for TRW in the olden days and it was ever an boy's club. Even though the work could be interesting, I finally left for a communication business...real estate. Never looked back except in wonder. I wonder why we take it. Whilst you are on the floor cleaning up his coffee stains, you should be crawling out the door looking for real work.

ls1313
ls1313

Just wanted to let you know that I feel your pain - your post sure sounded familiar! I also worked for an idiot like that for a little over a year. And yep, the females in the office took the brunt of his idiocy. He ran off the only 2 female programmers and confined the 2 remaining females to the "pink collar" ghetto (answering phones, mailing bills, cleaning the kitchen)!! The other employees weren't fairing much better, which is what i tried to keep in mind while cleaning HIS coffee stains off the kitchen floor before a bunch of customers arrived for a tour!

svilla8874
svilla8874

I worked with a woman manager who cried at the drop of a hat. All the men around her were intimidated and afraid that she would cry in front of them. It just made me angry that she would manipulate people this way. Emotional control should be expected from all, control your anger, your frustration, all of it, no matter your gender.

network admin
network admin

i only use the water works on cops.. works every time! =) i do appreciate your honesty and i happen to agree with you. but life is the way life is. will it change? probably not.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I may be a man...but I do understand what you are saying and have seen it more than once. "I decided long ago that I was not going to put on a fake persona " That's the only way you can react without losing your mind and being a permanent "witch" lol...that applies to all aspects of your life male or female, too. Being a divorced dad though I am most certainly not a stranger to the world of stereo types. Sometimes I feel like I have a scarlet colored "D" on my forehead.

Baltimore Anon
Baltimore Anon

I experienced this recently. I was angry that a co worker had not informed me of a requirement, and when she finally brought it to my attention it jeopardized the project schedule. I went to this persons manager and explained my anger and frustration as this had not been the first time this person had made "mistakes". It got back to me that this was perceived as a "melt down". It wasn't a melt down, I was just pxxxxd off. If it had been a man in my shoes, I'm sure he would have been "justified" in his reaction.

sbelsinger
sbelsinger

I'd be interested in seeing the study for that reason (among others), but my guess is that there was no significant difference between the genders in their response to the scenarios. I did some research on the glass ceiling earlier this year for a project I was working on, and the results of this study are not unique or surprising. See Catalyst's (http://www.catalyst.org) "Women 'Take Care', Men 'Take Charge'" and "The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership" reports.

jdclyde
jdclyde

just looking for a reason to beotch! :p :x well, better at each other than at us poor INNOCENT guys! B-)

ls1313
ls1313

Oh, yeah - I was looking the whole time I worked there!!!! Monster and a local site were my best friends in those days!! I finally found a company that had many females in programming, networking, and other hardware positions, and I jumped at that job! Jobs like that one I mentioned are good for teaching one how to appreciate the better jobs that come along. Even when I have a bad day at my current position, I remember that job and suddenly feel better. . .

kltullis
kltullis

I have been told I "don?t play well with others." What is funny is my internal customers (the functional side of the business loves me). My expectations of my coworkers is that they are customer focused, that I don?t want IT to look foolish, and that they provide their pieces with quality. I expect these things of myself as well. Then I use all the "right" techniques to get them to work better they still provide poor quality products which then makes my job harder. I have spoken to them directly; I have provided them checklists; I have done tons of handholding; etc. Then I get to a critical part of my project and it requires me to work excessively because of their failures. I get justifiably angry and I am told I don?t play well with others. I have decided that I will not change who I am because they cannot handle a woman's emotions. I just now cc my boss on EVERY minute issue I have with them from the very beginning and I let them know I am doing it prior to the first issue. I also decided if this is acceptable to my boss then why should I worry about it? I no longer work excessively when they provide poor quality. I go home -- I also set that expectation with my boss. I have also set this expectation with my bosses boss. It is his responsibility to "fix" this issue with the other staff members not mine. I still get frustrated but I go home with a clear conscience. Obviously if they don't care about these issues why should I. It comes down to really poor management and there is nothing I can do to change that!

jdclyde
jdclyde

do you think YOUR laughing about! X-( :p

jdclyde
jdclyde

It was simply an innocent mistake.... :p That is ok, I think chicks rock! :x

maecuff
maecuff

You've mistaken the word 'innocent' for the word 'simple'.

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