Emotions are part of our very fabric as human beings. When we are aware of an emotion that we don’t want to express, we can often move into a reactive fight or flight state. However, wanting to fight or flee on the job might be room for dismissal.
If bottling our emotions up is bad and expressing them could even be worse, how do we behave when we are upset or angry at work?
Men and women’s brains are structurally and biochemically different. How we regulate and express our emotions is also different. When under stress, both men and women release cortisol and epinephrine, the hormones that raise a person’s blood pressure, increase their blood sugar levels, and control their “fight or flight” response. However, women under stress also produce significantly more oxytocin. This is the hormone that influences what biologists call the “tend and befriend” instinct. Daniel Goleman states “we know that women’s brains are more replete with oxytocin, the hormone that encourages social bonding, and the more social people are, the more socially intelligent they tend to be.”
A mans brain, on the other hand, has larger centers for action and aggression than a woman’s does. Men and women both produce testerone, but men produce 10x more than women. A man would therefore be far more likely to confront the interrupting jerk in the meeting to fight the agressor. Also, a competitive environment stimulates the production of testerone and their can be a positive feedback loop that increases this behavior. In women, conflict is more likely to create feelings of stress, upset, and fear. Women actually regret expressing anger more than men do.
So what happens if you let loose at work and then regret it?
This is normal. We all loose our cool from time to time, the best step forward is to apologize. The best way to apologize is to say you are sorry for exactly what you did. Don’t justify why you did what you did in your apology, just let it go and take ownership for your action.
Try this: ”Kate, I am sorry I yelled at you yesterday. It was unacceptable and I will make sure it never happens again.”
The best way to make an apology sound genuine is to have it be genuine. If you are having a hard time coming to a place of apology, think about the effect of your actions on the other person, and recognize how it must have made them feel, and the consequences of your behavior. Feeling compassion for the person you were angry at the day before will encourage you to apologize.
A study done in 2009, the Emotional Incidents in the Workplace Survey, targeted men and women betwee the ages of 18 and 64. 701 respondents were surveyed about the most prevalent emotions in the workplace. The results found:
- Frustration is the most dominant feeling expressed in the workplace.
- Women experience anger more than men.
- More than 60% of all workers reported that they saw their boss get angry with someone during the last year.
- Women under 45 are 10x more likely to cry at work than men 45 and older.
- Sixty nine percent of people feel that when someone gets emotional in the workplace it makes the person seem more human.
- Lastly, 88% of all workers feel that being sensitive to others emotions at work is an asset, a positive trait.
In working and expressing our emotions at work, this simple meditation exercise might be helpful to remember.
Mindfulness of Emotions Exercise
D- Breathe Deeply. This pause allows you time to think and the deep breathing moves out of your sympathetic nervous system, into your rest and digest, calming your mind and body.
I- Investigate and label the Emotion you are having with acceptance
N- Name what the other person is feeling. Can you imagine yourself on the other side of the argument?
G- Generate skillfulness and kindness to yourself and this person as you move forward.
With more women in the workplace and more emotions being revered in the workplace, it is an important time to bring consciousness and sensitivity to the workplace.
To learn more about how to incorporate mindfulness into your life at work, home, health, and relationships please go to “Savor Your Life” and learn how this powerful CD can help you move from reactivity to wise responding.