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Are women allowed to be angry at work?

 April 30, 2013

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Are women allowed to be angry at work? A gut reaction to this question might immediately be “yes of course because we all get angry.” That, of course misses the point.

Are there still societal and possibly workplace norms and conventions that restrict women’s ability to be angry in the workplace?

Anger in the workplace can be common. Anger is core feeling which is hard wired in humans from birth. It isn't learnt. Everyone gets angry and often a lot more than people generally tend to admit.

What matters is that anger is expressed in a healthy way, but do women feel embarrassed admitting anger. Do women feel allowed to be angry in the same way as men?
Numerous articles have suggested that an angry aggressive male, though not socially acceptable, is more acceptable than an angry aggressive female. To understand that is to understand centuries of norms and values developed by a male dominated society that is only just beginning to find balance in the way it treats both sexes. Exploring caveman thinking, there is little doubt that some people find an angry aggressive woman quite a startling contrast from the compliant, submissive ideal they may hold in their mind. On the subject of submission versus aggression, it is possible to teach people to be assertive in their anger rather than aggressive or passive aggressive.
Assertive anger is healing (it clears up misunderstandings), healthy (it does not hurt either party) and essential in today’s stressful and complicated life. There is an issue here though. If the workplace you are in is essentially passive or passive aggressive, even a genuinely, sincere, assertive person of any sex can be labelled as aggressive. This is why a whole team should work to develop a healthy, assertive and honest culture. An emotionally healthy work environment can be far more efficient and a nicer place to work.
The reality of anger at work is that it often does not get expressed. People often get stressed and  frustrated about issues at work but the environment does not allow them to express how they really feel. Unfortunately, such negative emotions cannot be contained forever. They have to come out somewhere and in reality the place they often play out is unfortunately in the home. Partners and children can often be heard for many people saying “enough is enough”.

Then right education and culture in the workplace is important so that people do not take their work problems and negativity home and abuse their families. Imagine working in a culture where people are able to agree to disagree, where people don’t take things personally and where it is safe to express your feelings. A culture of trust only builds where there is a culture of honesty. Complete honesty. Imagine how more efficient workplaces can be if the back stabbing, undermining, positioning, sarcasm and fighting were removed.

Remember these important rules for managing anger
 Stop, think, take a look at the big picture. What’s really going on for you and will this matter in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days?
2. It is ok to have a different opinion. The world is made up of opinions and we don’t need to go to war just because we disagree.
3. Don’t take things personally. Did you interpret that (make it up) or did they actually say it?

Want to know more? Take our anger test and see what your score is.
The author is Julian Hall who delivers behaviour changing and life changing workplace solutions that reduce reduced stress, tension and absence. For more details see  www.StressExperts.co.uk

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