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Study: Men are more emotional than women at work

Men are twice as likely to quit their job when triggered by their emotions. Photo: Getty

Men are more emotional in the workplace than women, a new study has found.

Men and women have different emotional triggers at work, according to the study of 2,000 UK workers and 250 line managers by UK job board Totaljobs. Men are twice as likely to get emotional because their “ideas weren’t heard” or because they “were criticised” and they were almost three times more likely to experience an emotional event because a project went over budget, missed a deadline or got cancelled.

The research also shows a clear divide in the ways men and women express their emotions in the workplace. While men are twice as likely to shout or even quit their jobs because of their emotions, women are more than twice as likely to cry at work, with 41% of women saying that they have cried in the workplace compared with 20% of men.

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“Men and women are socialised to display emotions differently, especially at work. Men are more likely to report experiencing emotions associated with power, such as anger or pride,” says Terri Simpkin, a senior lecturer in leadership and corporate education at Anglia Ruskin University.

“In fact, emotions and power are inextricably linked. Not being heard is congruent with lacking in status. Similarly, sadness is associated with a lack of power in social settings such as the workplace.”

However, many employees feel that they can’t express their emotions at work at all with 59% of workers saying they have felt emotions at work that they didn’t feel that they could freely express. A third (33%) said they conceal their real emotions with “a positive face” at work.

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This could be to do with workplace culture as 30% of line managers said they consider the expression of emotions at work to be a sign of weakness and more than half (51%) believe that emotions should be completely suppressed in a professional context.

“Workplaces are environments of social expectations,” Simpkin says. “There are ‘display rules’ associated with when, where and how much emotion can be shared and by whom. This is one reason why people will suppress their emotions in the workplace: they fear being judged.”

Colleagues are the main reason for getting emotional at work, the study found, with a third (33%) of emotional events in the workplace being triggered by co-workers, compared with 20% being caused by work tasks. 

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One in 10 employees felt emotional at work because they had been a victim of workplace bullying and six in 10 said they had a colleague they considered to be a “work enemy.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though — 91% of workers reported that joy was the key emotion they experienced over the course of their careers.

However, this is closely followed by surprise (90%), anger (85%), sadness (82%), disgust (71%), and fear (61%).

Millennials are the most likely to face emotional challenges at work as figures reveal they’re the age group most likely to experience sadness (91%), anger (91%) and disgust (80%) in the workplace.

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The study shows that workers begin to express more joy and surprise as they age. They also get less sad, angry, disgusted, and fearful as they move through their careers. Experiences of workplace fear falls from rates of 77% among 23- to 38-year-olds to just 45% among employees aged between 55 and 73. 

“Emotional intelligence is a key professional capability, particularly for leaders and managers. Our emotions are what make us human. They give us our capacity for collaboration, innovation, creativity and connection.

“Traditional attitudes which taught us to leave our emotions at the door should be long gone. 

“Emotions are designed to communicate something to us. Recognising the message rather than suppressing it is key to dealing with emotions effectively.

“It is this human-ness within organisations that will set them apart as we move further into the fourth industrial age. As workplaces are becoming more and more digital, the ability to lead with an understanding of how to integrate emotionally aware people into them will be key to success,” says Simpkin.