Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Emotions in the Workplace

Generally, I relish in being a female. I take great pride in being a woman and thankful for my opportunity to have a career. However, being a (young) woman in a male dominated field does have its challenges. 

Emotions are a tricky beast. I don't consider myself particularly sensitive (unless when it comes to furry friends). Sure, I tear up at the occasional documentary or rom com, but in general I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. Instead of being a bleeding heart I find myself getting emotional in peculiar situations such as when I'm angry, feeling nervous, confronted, or even happy.  I realize I'm not a robot and all of this would be fine...well fine..until it comes up at work.

Last week I was having a particular frustrating day at the office. I had just been told I had to switch offices and pack up all my junk and move it downstairs. Not a big deal I know but it was annoying and I probably took it a little too personal. I was in the midst of packing all my piles of paper into boxes when my boss walks into my office and shuts the door. This is a rare occurrence on its own so it already had me on edge. He begins to explain that he could tell I was upset about the situation and started to go down a philosophical road about how in life you can't take anything personal and should never assume anything. Disclaimer: I take most things personal (I can't help it) and can be defensive. As he's talking I'm making eye contact, nodding, and inserting the occasional "ok". I have it all together until I start to feel my face and neck heat up. I instantly know that I am beet red. This spins me even further because I HATE that my emotions can be seen (literally) all over my face. I try to take slow breaths because I know too well what is about to happen. He's still going on and gets to a place where he's actually complimenting me on my work and potential. Then I feel it. I start to feel that tingling in my eyes. The feeling that can only mean one thing---I know that any second my eyes are going to start welling up. The ONE thing I do not want to happen in this situation. Mentally I am trying with every ounce of my being to hold back the waterworks that I can feel building up. I can tell that he can see that I'm uncomfortable and likely puts me out of my misery and quickly ends the conversation and leaves. As soon as he walks out I spin around in my chair and feel the tears pour out of my eyes. 

Let me make this clear, I am not embarrassed to cry and think that showing your emotions is very healthy. But in this particular case being it was at work and the fact that there was no specific reason to cry I was so frustrated with myself. It's an all too common dilemma. As a woman in the workplace you have to walk a delicate tight rope. You have to be tough and thick skinned and being overly emotional makes you "unpredictable" and "unstable". However, if you're too rigid you're seen as a bitch.

What is the happy medium? I don't necessarily feel like I lost respect that day by having my emotions take over. But I can definitely recognize where problems could occur. Lawyers are supposed to be tough, cutthroat, and not afraid of confrontation. However, it's not just in law, most careers have similar standards. I'll be the first to say that those traits do not come natural to me but I've gotten so much stronger over the last 2 years. I can't help to think though whether this is a step backwards for women. Granted, nobody needs soppy emotional messes in the workplace. But, the beauty of a woman is in her strength as well as softness. The duality is what makes us special and powerful. 

I would love to hear your personal struggles in this area. What are your thoughts on being a woman and walking the fine line with your emotions?


24 comments:

  1. I work in a male-dominated field, too, and get this struggle! I had an emotional week last week (thanks, pms) and found myself tearing up over every little annoyance. One thing that helps me is getting up and taking a break! It's hard when someone is in your office but sometimes a quick timeout does wonders.

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  2. I actually went into law because I'm a generally emotion-less person and thought it was a good fit. I do get red when I get frustrated with a dumbass client but I have rosacea in my cheeks so they're always red anyway! I have a friend who says pinching works, if that helps. Her boss is evil so when she feels herself start to well up, she pinches her thigh to make it stop until she's alone.

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  3. I am such an emotional person and this was my biggest struggle when I worked in an office. The moment someone questioned me I got defensive. The moment I was called into my bosses office or did something "wrong" or they were questioning my work I would start to tear up. I cant help it it's who I am. one of my co-workers would even talk to me before meetings and would be like try and keep it together. I was embarrassed but now looking back on it I feel like it showed that I cared about my work enough to be emotional about it.

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  4. I feel you on this! Especially the frustration when you KNOW that you are getting emotional and have a hard time stopping it. Sometimes it just pops up! I try to keep it together as best as I can, but also know that I need to give myself some slack. I give it to others; self love can be the most difficult.

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  5. This is such an important topic, one of I have struggled with. I mean, I just have to wonder, would he have gone into a male employee's office and had a "talk" with him? In my experience, men in the work space can have a kind of patronizing demeanor and "expect" women to be emotional and try to "handle" them. Meanwhile, I have seen men completely fly off the handle at work and no one thinks anything of it.

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  6. I hate this happened to you! I have a difficult work place and sometimes feel like loosing it. The only time I cry is when I am about to explode. I sometimes think there is a standard in place that requires women to be stone cold in the work place. Maybe this is due to is competing for jobs with men who are known for being the stone cold gender. I don't see showing emotions as a reason to think this is a bad thing. I mean in my opinion showing emotion just reinforces the fact that you are human due to humans showing their emotions. Being a woman to me is empowering, so never feel that by showing classic emotions makes you less of a lawyer. We all deal with things differently and that is okay. Thanks for linking this up for the Let's Be Friends Blog hop!

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  7. This is a tough one! If you can step away and take a breather, that's what I do when I feel frustrated or emotions coming on!

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  8. It is so hard to walk that line! We want to be seen as capable, polished and talented but we are emotional creatures and God created us that way on purpose. I think it's important to find a balance and I'm still working on that myself! I think that being able to show our emotions and be vulnerable shows our strength but I totally understand not wanting to be seen as emotional in the workplace. It's the same way in the financial industry!
    Kelsey
    www.thepeacockroost.com

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  9. I agree, this is really hard. I became a supervisor last year and I still struggle with how I present myself to my staff-I want them to know that I mean business but I also don't want them to think I'm mean. And I am a paralegal but I work in the social work/child welfare field which is almost all women and there are so many emotions! I do try not to express much emotion at work and instead when my husband gets home I tell him the situation and how I felt and he's usually a pretty good judge about whether or not I'm overreacting. But it's such a fine line!

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  11. I've worked at a law firms for 5 years and its a very high stress atmosphere so I can totally relate to this. I've seen men throw temper tantrums and nobody is phased if a man acts hot headed or throws something! But the second I look a little stressed out or unhappy everyone notices. I hate how women are expected to be happy, smiley and bubbly all the time.. even at work. Your boss should have just addressed his "concerns" etc. with an email. No need to invade your personal space (and close the door!) in your office when you're dealing with an annoying situation and crappy circumstances!
    P.s. you're not alone.. I've seen soooo many paralegals and receptionists sob at the front desk, or in the bathroom so many times! Loudly! Our desks are out in the open without the privacy of closed doors which sucks! I've always made it to the bathroom to cry though, thank god!
    Virginia
    theritzyglitzy.com

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  12. I completely feel you on this, and I'm sorry this happened to you. I know how awkward it can be. Sometimes it is so hard to just take a deep breath and let it go, so I always like to take a break when I can.

    I work in non-profit arts, and I feel like in my office, there is a HUGE double standard between men and women. Not just with emotions (it seems like it is somehow okay for men to yell, but not okay for women to be emotional?), but with other things too. I could go into a whole rant about this.

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  13. I can definitely relate! It's a tough line to walk. Working in a male dominate environment surely has it's challenges. I'm in HR, and while my department is mainly female the company I work for is not. Being in HR and especially having to handle complex employee relations issues, we're taught to leave our emotions out of it and go off of facts. Sometimes that's easier said than done. I've seen men in the office curse, bang things, and get upset, yet that seems acceptable to everyone.
    Thankfully crying at work hasn't been an issue for me. And when it did happen, I was pregnant but didn't know it yet. That should explain it lol. I try to take a moment and calm down and rethink the situation. Over the years I've gotten the confidence to address things with the people who made me feel a certain way. Respectfully and professionally of course. But I'm not one to brush things under the rug. ~ Sierra Winks and Eyerolls

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  14. I'm a cryer too, and my emotions always betray me in the most awful of circumstances. I had a similar situation at work at my last job where I felt cornered by my boss and knew he could see that I was about to cry, and it's so humiliating. No one wants to be seen as weak, but in confrontational situations I can't control my instinct to let it all loose. I don't know why it isn't something I can get under control; I think it's definitely a part of the fight or flight reflex. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I feel your pain.

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  15. It's tough. I'm sure your job is a lot more high stress than mine is. I've never cried at the workplace but I've known others who have, and it's tough. Sometimes just taking a breather and taking a walk around the building or a simple bathroom break can helpfully diffuse the emotions a bit.

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  16. Oh girl, I've definitely been in this EXACT situation before and it's awkward/tough/uncomfortable for everyone! There isn't much you can do but just put it behind you I suppose?! I would try and escape to the bathroom for a breather when I felt myself getting worked up!

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  17. Oh girl I can relate! I've been in two similar situations. Last year I was told my office was closing. I held onto my sanity for as long as I could until I lost it. I cried the biggest ugly tears I've ever cried. I was in HR office a couple days after that and I broke down to her and she turned to me and said "I just don't understand why you're crying" now I am NOT an emotional person at all. I don't cry in front of people, like ever! So I was very vulnerable and she was so rude. From that moment on she has treated me dofferently. I don't think it's okay, especially with her being a female and the situation I was in but crying at work is seen as a statement of being weak. It definitely toughened me up to the point where I work with all males in my department now and if I ever even show a sign of femininity they make fun of me. It's hard to stand my ground sometimes but work is such a funny tricky emotional thing. I battle it every day. There's no right response to crying at work and I know some people simply can't handle seeing people cry and I think that's what it comes down to. Some people just don't know how to act so they either make fun of or ignore it completely. Okay I'm rambling and I don't even know what I said, but why I want to say is I completely understand what you're saying.

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  18. I like you, get defensive and a little emotional at times. It's hard not to. It's a tough double standard with women in the working area, assuming we are too emotional, whereas that never comes up for men. Stay strong girl!

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  19. Love this post, especially since I cry when I'm mad. I shared this with a friend who has been in a VERY similar position lately. Thanks for the insight.

    Tif
    www.brightonabudget.com

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  20. I am dealing with this same situation as I type this. I immediately thought of your post and I popped in to comment in hopes of avoiding the waterworks. My problem is that I have so many responsibilities and anything that goes wrong ultimately falls on my plate. When this happens and I get called out (for a mistake that may not even be my fault), I take it personally. It especially stings considering I bust my butt and all that I do that is good seems to go unnoticed. I'm sorry about your frustrations last week, but know that you are not alone.

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  21. I'm also an attorney and can relate to the exact same feelings of defensiveness and feeling the waterworks about to start - and I don't consider myself to be particularly sensitive or emotional. I am human, though. Being in a male dominated field definitely makes it more difficult. My advice, and I can't say this will work for everyone especially if the male boss is a real pig, is to be firm in your boundaries. You can talk about something when you're ready to talk - not when he decides to ambush you unannounced while you're in the middle of packing up your stuff. Yes, he may think you are being bitchy but just try to say calmly and coolly, " I understand we need to talk about about this but now isn't the right time. Let me collect my thoughts, grab a water, finish what I am doing, etc..and we can discuss it later today or tomorrow." It gives you time to pull it together, calm down, have your cry alone in the bathroom stall - whatever you need. Saying that firmly is usually enough to make him back off (they're usually scared the bitch cannon is about to explode), you can discuss it on your terms and take some control of the situation and you won't seem like the stereotype they want to see of the crying, unstable "girl." Good luck!

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  22. I am the same way. I take things personal too, and can be emotional sometimes. I'm glad to here that someone else is like that.

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  23. 100% agreed. Finding the balance between rigid and friendly while still being taking seriously and not being overly emotional is tough.

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  24. The thing about working in an office with more women than men is that it does get a bit cray cray lol. I swear the men in my office don't understand our moodswings haha
    XO Ellen from Ask Away
    Www.askawayblog.com

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