Today I’d like to address an emotional topic: Are women more emotional than men at work?

I was having a conversation with a male colleague about why sexism is so hard to overcome, and since we are both leaders of large organizations, I asked him if he thought it was different working with men vs. working with women. He said he found women to be more emotional than men, which I thought was pretty rich given that I knew the people on his team very well, and I can only say that the one man on his team was (by my reckoning) the most emotional one of all. I asked my husband that night if he agreed with my male colleague, and he said yes, although he hastened to add, “I’m talking about women. Not you.” Point taken.

What differences do I find between working with men & women? I find that most women undervalue themselves or are uncomfortable placing a monetary value on their work (asking for a raise). They talk more about being happy to contribute to the team. The men I work with are almost universally more demanding and entitled. More men than women unabashedly ask for more pay, whether their contributions merit it or not. I consider both men & women to be more or less equally emotional at work, but they manifest those emotions differently.

I think there’s got to be an explanation for this male perception that women are more emotional than men in the workplace. Here are some theories I’ve come up with:

  • Women are more emotional. As my husband pointed out, not all women, certainly not me. But according to MBTI results, 55% of women make decisions based on their feelings (personal values and impacts to people) vs. on logic (giving more weight to impartial factors), whereas only 45% of men make feelings-based decisions. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to be noticeable and even foster a stereotype.
  • Social skills. Women are taught from girlhood to get along with people, to have social skills. Some of those skills are positive (building a support network, listening with empathy, noticing subtle cues when someone is unhappy) and others can be negative (manipulation, gossip, peer pressure that causes eating disorders). Because women are often more attuned to subtle social cues, this could be translated by men as women being “more emotional.”
  • Minority or underclass frustration. Women still experience a glass ceiling – less representation at the highest levels of most corporations – that could result in an inferiority complex in how they communicate their needs to the organization. Frustration over being disenfranchised or feeling dismissed or powerless can translate into emotional behavior due to insecurity.
  • Male workplace conditioning. What constitutes professionalism are norms that are decidedly male: don’t raise your voice (or show enthusiasm), don’t share too much information, don’t talk about feelings, it’s not personal it’s business, etc. Men have been setting the standards in the workplace since well before women were, ahem, allowed to work.
  • Industry specific norms. Some jobs are viewed as “women’s work” (generally speaking the low paid jobs), and they are coincidentally, more emotional or nurturing jobs: nurse, teacher. Women may gravitate to roles that use their social skills more, essentially jobs with an emotional appeal to them. Men (who are taught from birth to repress emotions “Boys don’t cry“) may shy away from these types of roles.
  • Differences in expression. Both sexes are prone to insecurity (which is what I assume is meant by “emotional”), but women often use their social network to bolster their security (through friendship and gossip) whereas men will often brood, retreat, or become demanding and confrontational. Both of those are emotional behaviors in response to insecurity. Women are generally more enthusiastic in their speech and mannerisms (to convey their feelings and ideas to others), whereas men generally use a less varied pitch (to hide their feelings from others).

What do you think? Let’s poll to find out!

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