Emotions: Men and women at work

This is a super sloppy blogpost. I wanted to be organized and profound, but I didn’t have the mental space to do that this week. It’s been a very busy week. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about this topic for several weeks, and I should just get it out there, warts and all.

Been thinking about emotions. Those pesky things which you are supposed to keep to yourself except for special circumstances, and with certain people. Certainly emotions are unacceptable at work.

The rule of thumb is women are supposed to be all emotional and men are all logical.

I work mostly around men. I often have to spend days, strings of consecutive days, managing teams of men to get work done.

Once, I had a job site with only one person- A WOMAN. The difference was staggering. Here’s what I mean:

This woman came in, she had the spec sheet, and she had relevant questions. We talked about the work to be done, the troubles we were having about the work, and after we reached a resting point, we talked about ourselves. We talked about how we had been doing this work for a certain number of years and compared notes.

I loved that day.

When I work with a team of men, it is very different. The talk gets way more personal. We talk a lot about how each of us feels. I have heard the most amazing stories from people. I had a whole crew discuss their family problems, who had step children, and how to re-connect with an estranged daughter.

The rule makes no sense, in my experience; men are WAY more free to talk about their emotions on the job.

And this is up and down the career ladder. I work with construction workers and Chief executives both. I can be in a room with either of those men for hours at a time, making conversation. It has amazed me for the longest time that this rule is so very very false.

There is one other factor maybe that I hadn’t considered.  It is possible that I am acting as a catalyst. The fact that I am present might be the thing that makes these dudes go all open-hearted. Maybe it’s nothing but sports talk when I’m not in the room.

One of my favorite college professors told me I am like a coffee bean in hot water; I change the room I’m in. She ought to know; she’d taught classes with me in them and with me NOT in them.

So maybe my experience of men as far more emotional than women has to do with me rather than the world in general.

The few times I’ve worked with females exclusives on a job, it’s been a very different experience. That cataclysm doesn’t happen. We just do the work.

I don’t mind the extra personal talk with the men. I am interested in them as people and it passes the time. Some days can be very long.

I am SURE that in some cases, these guys are not aware of the emotional content of their communication.  Especially when it’s hostile, they are not aware that they are acting out of emotional aversion. This cool website put some good words around this experience:


the average person isn’t consciously aware of the emotion; however, the sensitive person is. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean the sensitive person will know why the emotion is there, but he will feel something. On the other hand, just because the average person isn’t aware of the emotion doesn’t. It will appear as a rationale for thinking, doing or saying something and tell us much about his emotional state and personality. This holds true regardless of whether he’s aware of this.

…sensitive people often have many emotions, especially intense ones, flowing through them, it can be intimidating or, at minimum, frustrating to work with them. It’s intimidating because they are likely aware of something that we aren’t.

I have that experience all the time. I can watch how someone will be thinking they are rational when they have red emotional paint all over their face in their reaction to me.

It is so disorienting. Maybe that’s how all catalysts feel.


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