Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?

Expressions of anger at work can be triggered by organizational pressures including complex relationships, chronic constraints, high stakes, and factors beyond individual control.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

When women and men express anger at work, they receive different evaluations of status, competence, leadership effectiveness.
Both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals, regardless of the actual occupational rank, reported Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

This negative evaluation of women who express anger was consistent across role statuses, from female CEOs to female trainees.
In contrast, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Similarly, women who express anger and sadness were rated as less effective than women who expressed no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.
Men who expressed sadness received lower effectiveness ratings than those who expressed in neutral emotions.

Observers also attribute different motivations and “root causes” to anger expressions by women and men.
Women’s angry emotional reactions were attributed to less changeable internal characteristics such as “she is an angry person,” and “she is out of control,” found Brescoll and Uhlmann.
In contrast, men’s angry reactions were attributed to changeable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

Ginka Toegel

Ginka Toegel

Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson

These differing evaluations and causal attributions are related to societal norms and expectations for women to regulate anger expressions, suggested Fairfield University’ s Donald Gibson and Ronda Callister of Utah State University.

Women may buffer the status-lowering , competence-eroding, and dislike-provoking consequences of anger at work by:

Rhonda Callister

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for people who express anger in the workplace?


Twitter:  @kathrynwelds

©Kathryn Welds


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