TOO MUCH EMOTION

In his work with male clients, Marshall finds that anger is the emotion most likely to get in their way. As he notes in the original What Got You Here, successful men who lash out in anger often justify doing so as a “useful management tool.” They imagine it’s an effective way to motivate sluggish employees and send a strong message about the importance of whatever is at stake. Yet the routine use of anger actually has the opposite effect, causing people to shut down, tune out, and lose motivation.

Of course, both women and men react in anger at work. But in our experience, women are more likely to display strong emotion in the form of anxiety, resentment, frustration, or fear. And the expression of these painful sensations is the primary reason many women get tagged as being volatile , Men of course also experience these emotions. But they’ve usually grown accustomed to stuffing them, or to channeling fear and anxiety into aggression. The message that anger is the only acceptable way for men to display emotion is conveyed from early childhood and finds reinforcement in team sports, where anger may be viewed as a sign of competitive drive.

Parents and teachers (as well as coaches) tend to give girls more latitude in displaying hurt, fear, and frustration or otherwise letting their vulnerability show. So it’s not surprising that women tend to be more comfortable acting on these emotions. But given that the leadership model in most organizations has been set in the male image, these emotions find little acceptance, even though they’re usually less destructive than anger.

There’s no such thing as a good or bad emotion. Your emotions have enormous value. They provide useful information about the situation you’re in, vital clues you would be unwise to ignore. Emotions are the wellspring of your intuition and the prime source of your energy and passion. They get you out of bed in the morning and keep you engaged when the going gets rough.

So it’s vitally important to recognize what you are feeling at any moment, to identify and accept the emotions your circumstances are stirring up. However, speaking while in the grip of strong emotion is usually a bad practice. Your perceptions about who’s at fault may be distorted. You may overstate your case. You may come across as touchy or out of control. And you most certainly will be unable to calibrate your response in a way that lands with maximum impact.

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