Imagine losing a big account because a team member arrived late to the client meeting. Would you feel angry about it? Chances are, you would. But would you express your anger openly at work? If you are a female, you might want to think twice before doing so.
A recent study by Victoria Brescoll, a post-doctoral scholar at Yale University, found that angry men get ahead, while angry women are penalized. A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it, but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as “out of control” and incompetent.
Interestingly, during the recent political campaign, Hillary Clinton was described by a leading Republican as “too angry to be elected president.” As Hilary Clinton learned, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So what’s a girl to do?
First of all, you don’t want to betray yourself, so you should speak up. However, using “assertive” language instead of “aggressive” language can be the difference between being penalized and being admired. Men are forgiven for being aggressive, because it’s said to be in their DNA! Recent studies have shown that men are actually penalized for being too kind and thoughtful.
The next time you feel angry, check your language and you’ll reap rewards instead of criticism. When someone comes in late once again, resist barking angrily, “You’re late again, Steve. You always keep us waiting and it really makes me mad.” Instead, say, “Steve, when you come in late for our weekly meeting, you keep everyone waiting because your report has to be given first. In the future, I would appreciate you arriving on time. Is that agreed?”
Then if Steve arrives late for the next meeting, you respond: “Steve, you agreed you would arrive on time for our weekly meeting. You’re late again, so I’m assuming you don’t want to serve on the board, so I’m forced to find a replacement for you.” Because everyone else is as upset as you are about Steve’s habitual lateness, you’ll be admired for holding him accountable. In essence, they will penalize Steve for not living up to his word, and they will respect you for speaking up in an assertive and positive way.
Suppose another staff member is consistently late in getting his or her reports ready for the weekly meeting. Don’t bark angrily, “I would have thought by now that you’d be able to get a simple report out on time.” You’ll get better results if you say calmly, “In the future, would you make certain that your report is ready in time for our five o’clock meeting on Fridays. It really upsets the schedule if your report isn’t here along with the others. Is that agreed?”
No report the next Friday? Here’s your response: “You agreed that you would get your report in on time for our weekly meeting, and you haven’t done it. I’m disappointed that you didn’t live up to your word.” Don’t say another word. Wait until the other person has apologized. Assertive behavior prevents you from becoming the nagging or bullying complainer who loses her temper.
Have problems getting your partner to empty the trash? Don’t snap at him and say, “I can’t believe it! You forgot to take out the trash again. Can’t you do anything you’re supposed to do?” Instead, say calmly and firmly, “You promised you would take the trash out and you didn’t. It’s very inconvenient to have no room for trash for an entire week, so I would like your agreement that you will take the trash out every week as we both agreed. Okay?”
If your partner doesn’t take the trash out the following week, you respond in much the same way you did with your co-worker, Steve. You say, “You agreed you would take the trash out every Friday and I’m very disappointed and hurt that you didn’t live up to your word.” Not another word is necessary on your part. Remain silent, no matter what. Your partner should eventually apologize for forgetting and you will have avoided being labeled the nagging wife.
The next time you feel like lashing at someone in anger, remember this: Don’t accuse, just present the facts and explain how the other person’s behavior has caused you to feel. No one can penalize you for that! It appears that they can penalize you for lashing out in anger. Check your anger at the door and replace it with calm and self-assured assertive behavior.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant for business professionals and their staff. She also conducts assertiveness training seminars for women. Please contact her at www.theimagearchitect.com.