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Emotions in the Workplace Essay

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    Gender and Emotion in the Workplace

    Although the last century saw an increasing number of women enter the workforce, they continue to experience double standards regarding issues related to emotional expression. Indeed, research has found that women and men are held to different standards within a social context. Although there has been an increase in women leaders in the last few decades, traditional stereotypes remain, as do expectations that dictate how women socialize and react to issues versus their male counterparts. These stereotypes and expectations create an insidious cycle whereby women are subjected to double standards when it comes to expressing emotions in the workforce. Certain emotions are found to benefit men more than women, especially those in a position of power. Women who are expected to act/react a certain way based upon stereotypes and tradition, and find themselves trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy that is sustained over time. Furthermore, by following these social rules, power continues to remain elusive for women leaders.

    Literature Review

    Emotions play a critical role in the workplace. The concept of emotional expression among genders has been researched in psychology and sociology, and studies have found that certain expressions of emotions benefit women (versus their male counterparts) to an extent. According to Ragins and Winkel (2011), emotions are understood to be either expressed or experienced; emotions that are experienced do not necessarily need to be expressed. Although both men and women can experience or express emotions, both are socialized differently when it comes to the expression of emotions.

    According to Keck (2019), although all genders have the capability to express the same range of emotions, certain emotions are attributed to either due to issues of socialization. Women are generally viewed as more emotional compared to their male counterparts, as their expression of emotions are commonly thought to be based upon internal rather than external factors. Women who express emotions are believed to express them due to reasons such as personality. In comparison, men are generally understood to express emotions based upon a negative situation at work (p. 956). Men who are perceived to control their emotions are considered powerful and in control of their emotional expressions, in contrast to women (Ragins & Winkel, 2011, p. 381). These expressions of emotions can lead to perceived power or loss of power depending on the gender and social standing or status of the individual. For example, the concept of anger is perceived as an emotion that demonstrates power and confidence. However, at times, the expression of anger can also cause an individual to be perceived as unstable (Keck, 2019, p. 954). The perception of anger and power depends on gender and status, and the attributions, beliefs, and stereotypes that sustain these issues overtime.

    The concept of power relates to one’s social influence upon others. In general, women are stereotyped and perceived in the workplace to have less social power than their male counterparts. Traditional stereotypes hold that women have less social power versus men, as this influences the perception of competence among women versus men. Furthermore, individuals who hold higher status are expected to act and express emotions in ways that display confidence. As previously mentioned, certain emotions are attributed to power depending on the gender. Women who express emotions of anger are viewed unfavorably versus men (Keck, 2019, p. 954). Such expressions of emotion among men leads to increased power in the workplace in comparison to women due to the stereotypes and attributions of gendered behavior. This causes a vicious circle where women are pressured to act and express emotions in a certain manner, which causes others to stereotype and attribute them to those expression of emotions. By limiting their expression of emotions or attributing these emotions to negative stereotypes, women are placed in a position where they are hold a lower status in comparison to their male counterparts.

    Furthermore, individuals within a higher status are also perceived based upon their membership within a certain social group. Thus, women who are in leadership positions are still considered to have a lower status than their male peers due to their membership in a particular group (Ragins & Winkel, 2011, p. 380). The literature indicates that there remains a relationship between gender, power, and emotional expression. It is important to research this area due to the following issues: 1) Stereotypes that are continually sustained in the work environment limit the numbers of women able to attain leadership positions. A lack of representation of women leaders in the workplace may reinforce negative stereotypes and discourage other women and females to move toward a leadership position. Decreases in representation of women in the workplace may also negatively influence females from a younger generation from pursuing higher career aspirations and/or higher education. 2) From a global standpoint, women do not have full access to resources across many countries. Limited access to resources leads to unpaid work at home; and this leads to a decrease in global gross domestic productivity. The current study strives to further understand this relationship, interviewing men and women within the workplace to identify additional areas that would be beneficial for future research.

    The hypotheses are as follows: 1) Men view the expression of gender and emotions in the workplace as beneficial based upon gender and status, 2) Women view the expression of emotions in the workplace as beneficial depending on the type of emotions expressed, and 3) Women in the workplace are attributed more feminine characteristics (i.e. compassionate, relationship oriented), whereas men in the workplace are attributed more male characteristics (i.e. self-focused, competitive/aggressive, and goal oriented).

    Methods

    Participants

    Demographics. For this study, a total of three participants were interviewed: one woman and two men. The participants’ ages vary between 29–33 years old (Mage= 31 years old). Two participants are clinicians in the mental health sector within the Bay Area. The third participant is an engineer in the engineer field. Participants were not compensated for their time in the study. For security and identification purposes, each participant was labeled as the following: Participant 1W (female participant), Participant 1M (male participant one), and Participant 2M (male participant two).

    Measures

    This study utilized a qualitative method by interviewing all participants. Interviewing was used for this study to capture various ideas that could not be done with a quantitative method (i.e. survey).

    Procedure

    All three subjects were selected based upon their respective field for this study. All participants were asked a set of three standardized questions from the interviewer that addressed the following areas: their general thoughts on gender in the workforce, beliefs of expression of emotions and power between men and women in the workplace (sub-questions included), and thoughts on stereotypical behavior between men and women in the workforce.

    Results

    Most of the results for this study were consistent with previous research findings. The following are the direct quotes from each participant within the study:

    Participant 1W (female participant):

    Question 1: What are your general thoughts of gender and emotions in the workforce?

    “I think that it is a complicated subject to touch upon. I think when men and woman express emotions, people think about them differently. It’s just, hard to explain.”

    Question 2: What are your thoughts about the expression of emotions between men and women in the workforce?

    “I think people in general think that men who express emotions are warranted, and women are nuts. I mean I have seen this time and time again where a woman would get mad and people would think its just another issue in her life versus when a guy gets mad. People tend to think when a guy gets mad its because it must be something serious because guys are generally chill. But that’s obviously not the case for either situation.”

    Question 2a. Do you think that men and women are seen differently when they express certain emotions?

    “Basically, what I just said earlier. Women are viewed as complainers and naggers and men are more serious for some reason. Like, I think everyone has the right and ability to complain or nag, and trust me, there’s a lot of people I work with that nag all day, every day, and they’re men.”

    Question 2b. Do you believe that certain emotions make a person appear more powerful, or do you believe that it depends on their position in the company (and gender)?

    “I personally believe that certain emotions do make a person appear more powerful but it depends on how they use it. Like if a person was sad versus mad, obviously being mad has more power because being sad makes a person feel hopeless about something. Being mad means that you’re still able to change a situation. Of course, being mad all day everyday over small things takes out the power from being mad, and just makes the person look plain unstable. Having power in that context is another added layer. So, yeah, it just depends. No clear cut answer.”

    Question 3: What kind of qualities or characteristics come to mind when you think about men versus women leaders in the workforce?

    “I think they’re the same to be honest. I do believe that women in the workplace tend to endorse more masculine characteristics such as being aggressive or assertive with their needs and possibly less nurturing. I think if a woman played the more stereotypical feminine role of taking care of others then that would make others lose respect for them.”

    Participant 1M (male participant one):

    Question 1: What are your general thoughts of gender and emotions in the workforce?

    “I mean I don’t really know. I don’t care about your gender, and I’m an emotional person so I don’t think we should judge someone based on a bad day.”

    Question 2: What are your thoughts about the expression of emotions between men and women in the workforce?

    “I think that when guys cannot control themselves they are seen as unstable while women are just seen as dramatic.”

    Question 2a. Do you think that men and women are seen differently when they express certain emotions?

    “Yes, very much so. As a man if we lose our head we look unstable and we ruin our reputation. Women are just having a bad day.”

    Question 2b. Do you believe that certain emotions make a person appear more powerful, or do you believe that it depends on their position in the company (and gender)?

    “I mean it depends on what they do. If they break down and cry it’s seen as weak, but if they start throwing stuff and lose their mind they’re seen as intimidating. I feel like any intimidation of power is a personal thing, and that can go for either gender.”

    Question 3: What kind of qualities or characteristics come to mind when you think about men versus women leaders in the workforce?

    “Men are kind of bossy and women are moodier from a stereotype point of view, but in my experience it can go both ways.”

    Participant 2M (male participant two):

    Question 1: What are your general thoughts of gender and emotions in the workforce?

    “Doesn’t belong there. If you’re at work you should do work. Work is work, you get paid regardless of gender.”

    Question 2: What are your thoughts about the expression of emotions between men and women in the workforce?

    “I guess if it is within professional bounds it should be okay. You’re not going to be a maniac just because you’re a man and you’re not going to be histrionic if you’re a woman. I would keep it as the same criteria.”

    Question 2a. Do you think that men and women are seen differently when they express certain emotions?

    “Yeah other people probably have a bias. Like if a man is aggressive then he’s seen as assertive. If a woman does it, that means she’s too aggressive. That’s a pretty common one. I guess if a man gets mad, it’s okay. But if a woman gets mad that means she’s hysterical. That’s another. I don’t think men and women are seen differently when they express certain emotions because I break it down into why they’re doing it, what’s their motivation, is there another thing going on, what the condition is, how extreme is the response. Gender has nothing to do with it. I break it down. I analyze it.”

    Question 2b. Do you believe that certain emotions make a person appear more powerful, or do you believe that it depends on their position in the company (and gender)?

    “No for gender alone. Position in the company, yes. Emotion plus company plus position is yes. Emotion alone, no. Gender alone, no. Position alone, yes. Position and emotion, yes. I guess expression of emotion depends on the position in the company.”

    Question 3: What kind of qualities or characteristics come to mind when you think about men versus women leaders in the workforce?

    “I don’t know. I think men have more problems. More scandals. You don’t really see that among women leaders. All these weird issues. Men have more weird issues and that could be because there is more men leaders so it’s an insufficient sample size.”

    Discussion

    This study was intended to understand the relationship between gender and emotions in the workforce. Previous research indicated that differences among gender socialization of emotions impact the way men and women express emotions. Certain expression of emotions are viewed as socially acceptable among men versus women. This leads to a power differential among men and women in the workplace regardless of their position in the company. Group membership also played a significant role in the power differential between male and female leaders. An overview of findings will be provided in this chapter. Furthermore, the limitations and implications of this study will be provided in subsequent sections.

    Overview of Findings

    The information obtained during the interview addressed the following questions: 1) Men view the expression of gender and emotions in the workplace as beneficial based upon gender and status, 2) Women view the expression of emotions in the workplace as beneficial depending on the type of emotions expressed, and 3) Women in the workplace are attributed more feminine characteristics (i.e. compassionate, relationship oriented), whereas men in the workplace are attributed more male characteristics (i.e. self-focused, competitive/aggressive, and goal oriented).

    Results indicated that stereotypes between the expression of emotion between men and women in the workplace continue to remain prevalent in todays society. Although not all participants agreed with the sentiments of gendered emotions, it appears that this continues to remain an issue in the wider community. The majority consensus among all group members indicated that certain emotions such as anger are perceived as intimidating and powerful, although the use of the emotion and position in the company appears to dictate how it is perceived.

    Perceived characteristics between men and women in the workplace appeared to be mixed. Results indicated that men are perceived to have more problems (i.e. social issues) in the workplace compared to their female counterparts, in addition to being attributed to being “bossy.” Women were generally perceived to have fewer social issues but were viewed as being “moodier” in comparison to males. Furthermore, women were also perceived to be respected if they endorsed stereotypical male versus female characteristics. However, expression of certain emotions among females (i.e. anger) had a consensus among group members to be negatively perceived according to the public.

    Limitations. The limitations for this study are based upon several factors: the limited number of participants; their occupation, age and gender ratio; the diversity among the participant pool, and the interview method. By increasing the number of participants within the study (including increasing the racial and ethnic diversity), a larger pool of participants would be provided and thus an average that would represent the general population. Furthermore, most participants within the study worked in the same industry and were of similar ages, potentially skewing the results. There was also a gender ratio of 2:1, i.e., two males and one female participant. Lastly, the in-person interview method may have created an environment wherein participants were pressured to respond a certain way, in comparison to qualitative methods such as asking them to fill out anonymous surveys.

    Implications and future research. This study sought to understand the relationship between gender and emotions in the workforce. The findings for this study appeared to be consistent with results found in previous research. The results show the complexities involved in gender and emotions in the workforce. There are a variety of factors that influence one’s perception of gender and emotions in the workforce, including one’s upbringing, field of employment, level of education, gender, etc.

    The area of emotional expression, power, and gender in the workplace continues to remain a fruitful area of exploration in research. It would be beneficial for future studies to examine the relationship between power, gender, and emotional expression with a larger pool of participants (an equivalent ratio of male to female participants) within targeted age groups to assess any discrepancies in results. It would also be beneficial to assess interview responses across different work sectors and levels of education.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, stereotypes and age-old traditional beliefs between men and women continue to exist in the workforce. Although there has been an increase in women leaders in the past few decades, a number of factors must still be considered to address these issues in the workforce, including education and continuous training on current issues related to gender inequality, the increased representation of women in the workforce, and the creation of policies that foster gender parity.

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    Emotions in the Workplace Essay. (2021, Nov 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/emotions-in-the-workplace-essay/

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