Women managers : learning about emotional expression in the workplace
Opengart, Rosalee Anne
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to understand what women managers learn about emotional expression in the workplace and how this knowledge is acquired. The research questions included: 1) What do women managers learn about expressing emotions in the workplace? 2) How do women learn what emotions are appropriate to express during their work? The sample for this qualitative study was ten women managers working in a manufacturing environment in different companies. These included five in human resources and five in other areas such as operations. The age range spanned from 27 to 53 years old. Education levels ranged from Bachelor’s, Masters, to work towards a Ph.D. The span of experience in management ranged from two to twenty-six years. Geographic backgrounds of the participants covered four distinct areas including Northeast, Southeast, South, and Midwest. Data analysis revealed that women learned the following about emotional expression: 1) the necessity of maintaining a “poker face” or appearing emotionally neutral; 2) the use of emotions as a strategy of influence; 3) the double-bind that women are faced with from the simultaneous expectations that they behave according to gender roles yet also act like men; 4) the need for authenticity in emotional expression; and 5) the importance of the situation for determining appropriate emotional expression. They learned through the following means: 1) women learn emotional expression from watching or receiving feedback from others, including supervisors or colleagues; 2) knowledge about emotional expression increases with age and work experience and occurs informally and incidentally on a daily basis; and 3) emotional expression is learned as part of upbringing and as an aspect of societal gender rules. Six conclusions were drawn from this study: 1) the rules and acceptability of emotional expression in a manufacturing workplace are dependent upon the employee’s gender and particular situation; 2) a male dominated system may create a need for women to perform more emotion work than men by having to emulate male behavior; 3) social structure is reproduced because of the importance of culture in defining the appropriateness of emotional expression; 4) emotions are used as a strategy of influence at both the organizational and individual levels; 5) women learn about emotional expression primarily through informal and incidental learning; 6) psychodynamics exist in the workplace that continually reproduce the pathology of emotional expression. Implications for research and practice include the following: 1) informal training programs for emotional intelligence may be as effective as formal learning situations; 2) action learning programs would provide an effective vehicle to implement emotional intelligence programs; 3) women need to gain an awareness and understanding of gender roles and their impact on behavioral expectations, career development and success; 4) emotions research needs to continue in order to acknowledge the existence of emotions in the workplace as well as examine their importance to managerial effectiveness, career development, and success; 5) further research could provide important knowledge for the emotions literature by examining the relationship between emotional expression and performance ratings; and 6) further research on the potential for informal learning to enhance emotional intelligence is critical.