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Which translates to, “All you women, don’t cry or get upset. I can’t stand it!” This trips off the tongues of men at work on a routine basis. Please hear the inflection of their pleas to women to stop expressing emotions. Can you hear the anger? Can you hear the discomfort? Can you hear the anxiety? Can you hear the loudness and intensity? Can you hear all the…emotion?!!

So adding to the heap of double standards in the workplace, Upset or Sadness is not okay but Anger is perfectly fine. Because we all know how productive anger in the workplace can be, right? But compassion or hurt…not so much.

I am in the fortunate position to be the consultant and not the direct report. When a male client complains about a woman crying I can laugh out loud and say, “So anger is acceptable but sadness is not? Pay attention to how angry you are just telling me about this.” After the mutual chuckling dies down, the man always says, “Have you been talking to my wife?” My response: “No. Trust me, I get it. You can’t tolerate the upset. You feel you need to fix it or make it go away. And I’m certain your wife has told you that she doesn’t need you to do anything other than listen to her. Your female colleagues at the office want the same thing. They can’t express everything as some sort of artificial intelligence robot. Just like you, they have strong feelings and they sometimes come out. Just because you get uncomfortable doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the woman or the moment.” Some men take up the challenge to work on this issue because someone other than their wives have pointed out the silliness of it all. Many just get defensive and say the problem is the woman’s.

The “no crying” rule for women is closely related to the “no aggression or directness” rule. If you cry, you are too emotional. If you are too direct, you are a bitch. Clearly, this is a no win. As long as men are the predominant leadership demographic, I fear that this is the way it is going to be. Workplace norms are set by them and anyone who falls outside of this will struggle. There is no amount of leaning in or coaching that will help women fare better. The only way things will change is if men change or when there is a critical mass of women in key roles. I want to be optimistic about the younger generation coming up but Silicon Valley is not making me feel very hopeful.

So here’s my solution. Since women will be dinged no matter what we do, why don’t we just act like ourselves? If we feel strong emotions, express them. If we want to be quiet, so be it. If we want to get up in someone’s face, okay. If we want to take control of the room, go for it. If we want to draw others out, that’s fine too. Just be yourself.

Why? First of all, because it is impossible and stupid to keep twisting yourself in a knot to fit in or please others or make people feel comfortable. What a waste of time. And until I hear men telling me they are jumping through these kinds of hoops all day every day, there is no reason to perpetuate the double standard.

And secondly, we can’t control what others think about us. If a woman speaks as bluntly as a man, many will have some choice names for her. I don’t see this changing. So if a woman is going to be called a bitch for doing a great job then I say, terrific!

Be emotional. Be aggressive. The haters are gonna keep on hatin’ either way.


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