When it comes to being emotional in the office, men are at the forefront, according to a new study.
UK jobs website Totaljobs published a new study looking into how UK workers manage their emotions in a professional environment. The survey, which included 2,000 workers and 250 managers in the UK, found that more than half the workforce feels they’re unable to actually express their true feelings in the workplace.
Men versus women
While it’s clear both men and women show their emotions in the office, there’s a divide to the types of emotion each display.
Women were found to be more than twice as likely to cry in their workplace compared to their male colleagues (41% versus 20%), but the numbers flipped for emotional outbursts such as shouting or yelling. Men were twice as likely to start shouting or break out into an emotional outburst because their ideas weren’t heard or because they were criticized for something.
That sentiment of men being more emotionally involved in work only became more apparent when it came to their involvement in projects. Men were almost three times more likely to get emotional when a project went over budget or if they missed a deadline or the project itself was canned.
This emotional pattern probably explains why men were also more likely to make a drastic career decision and quit their jobs due to being triggered by their emotions compared to women (20% versus 11%).
So many emotions
But beyond the battles of the sexes, both sides can agree they don’t feel comfortable expressing their emotions at work. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they felt restricted to express their real emotions in the workplace, with 60% of participants admitting they’d handle their own sadness by themselves instead of seeking help from someone else.
That number might seem high, but considering 30% of managers admitting expression emotions at work could be a sign of weakness, it isn’t surprising.
“Workplaces are environments of social expectations,” said Dr. Terri Simpkin of Nottingham University in a press release. “There are ‘display rules’ associated with when, where and how much emotion can be shared and by whom. This is one reason why people will suppress their emotions in the workplace: they fear being judged.”
It’s important to note that not all emotions displayed at work are necessarily bad. Nine out of 10 respondents said they’ve experienced joy throughout their careers.
Surprise (90%) was the most popular “Big Six” emotion experienced in participants’ working lives, but it was followed by anger (85%), sadness (82%), disgust (71%), and fear (61%.)
The causes of emotional events vary. More than a third of respondents said their emotional outbursts at work were triggered by their colleagues, while one in five said it was sparked by themselves. About a tenth of workers felt emotional at work because they were bullied by a colleague.
“Whether you’re an employee or an employer, the results of Totaljobs’s latest research shows just how important it is to understand how to manage our emotions in the workplace,” said Lynn Cahillane, the head of marketing at Totaljobs. “Expressions of sadness or anger point to the fact that someone is probably overworked, stressed or frustrated in their role. Rather than seeing tears or emotions as a sign of weakness, employers should take them as a cue to listen, learn and understand the underlying issues.
“Emotions can help reveal problems at work which need solving, as well as enable managers to understand how their teams react differently in certain situations. This gives employers the opportunity to adapt and show more compassion. In this way, emotional employees aren’t problems, they are a chance to help us learn how to create a better workspace.”