There’s a great report by the Wall Street Journal today on women in the workplace, and one of the most eye-opening lines came from a female titan in the financial industry, Sallie Krawcheck, president of global wealth and investment management for Bank of America Corp.
I’ve met Krawcheck, and I thought she was quite savvy and a tough cookie, and she’s known by some as being a bit of a hard ass. The interviewer asked her if she got emotional at work. “You don’t scream or shout or throw things?” he asked.
Her response: “It’s been rare. I’ve done it strategically a couple of times where I actually wasn’t mad but I figured OK, I’m going to act mad because I really want to make the point.”
There are so many varying opinions on this that it makes my head hurt, and most tend to advise leaving all emotions at the office door. But over the years I’ve seen anger work quite well for some in the workplace. And I’m not talking about temper tantrums folks, like the ones an old editor of mine would throw in the office. He’d get mad at a particular reporter for whatever reason and then throw all the contents of that reporter’s desk on the floor. This never happened to me but you better believe we all kept breakables in our drawers.
He led by making everyone around him scared. Not a great way to build loyalty. But sometimes you have to get mad to make a point, or to get others to hear you. This is particularly a problem for women. Being the nice girl in the corner doesn’t garner a lot of attention or respect. Almost all the executive women I’ve interviewed over the years told me they had to learn this.
One executive told me she was often treated like the secretary at meetings until she showed a bit of her annoyance to the group instead of hiding it. On the other hand, she did everything she could not to cry at work, and saved those kind of emotions for her husband when she got home.
It’s a balancing act, especially for women. Yes, male politicians can cry like babies on TV, but women would be scorned if they did the same. But that doesn’t mean you should keep all emotions under wraps, especially anger. In fact, it could hurt your career and your well-being if you do.
One study by Harvard Medical School found,
those who keep a check on their frustrations are at least three times more likely to admit they have disappointing personal lives and have hit a glass ceiling in their career.
But those who let their anger out in a constructive manner were more likely to be professionally well-established, as well as enjoy emotional and physical intimacy with loved ones.
Professor George Vaillant, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has been director of the Study of Adult Development since 1965, which has tracked the lives of 824 men and women for the last 44 years.
Professor Vaillant, based at the Harvard University Health Service, said: “People think of anger as a terribly dangerous emotion and are encouraged to practice ‘positive thinking’, but we find that approach is self-defeating and ultimately a damaging denial of dreadful reality.
“Negative emotions such as fear and anger are inborn and are of tremendous importance. Negative emotions are often crucial for survival: careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.”
Wow, I’m getting angry just reading this. Do you think you should get your angry face on?