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Constrained by Emotion: Women, Leadership, and Expressing Emotion in the Workplace

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Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)

Abstract

Both men and women are held to norms of appropriate emotional expression in the workplace, but emotional expressions by women tend to come under greater scrutiny than those by men. For instance, women incur social and economic penalties for expressing masculine-typed emotions because they violate proscriptions against dominance for women. At the same time, when women express female-typed emotions, they are judged as overly emotional and lacking emotional control, which ultimately undermines women’s competence and professional legitimacy. In this chapter, we argue that gender stereotypes about emotion constrain women’s behavior in the workplace more than men’s in that they have a narrower range of how much and which types of emotion they can express without penalty. We discuss the consequences of these constraints on the well-being of working women and examine how the amount of emotional latitude women experience shifts with their social status as well as race.

Keywords

  • Emotion expression
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Women
  • Status
  • Power
  • Emotional latitude
  • Leadership

Many of my colleagues made me feel that I was overly emotional, and I worked hard to get over that. In time, I learned to keep my voice flat and unemotional when I talked about issues I considered important… In the end, I successfully changed opinions. – Madeline Albright

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Smith, J.S., Brescoll, V.L., Thomas, E.L. (2016). Constrained by Emotion: Women, Leadership, and Expressing Emotion in the Workplace. In: Connerley, M., Wu, J. (eds) Handbook on Well-Being of Working Women. International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9897-6_13

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