Women with promotions feel more overwhelmed and stressed at work

women with promotions, workplace

Women with promotions are more frustrated at work – as promotions come with a greater emotional benefit for men than women

The psychological benefits of being promoted differs between men and women, as women with promotions are more emotionally restricted by stress and frustration than their male counterparts.

Emotions can influence job performance, decision-making, creativity, absence, conflict resolution and leadership effectiveness.

Rank in the workplace has been found to have greater emotional benefits for men than for women, and that women reported greater negative feelings than men across all ranks.

“It would be hard for anyone to break through a glass ceiling when they feel overwhelmed, stressed, less respected and less confident.”

Due to the importance of emotions in leadership, women are at a disadvantage – as they’re more likely to feel more pressure and stress in higher positions.

Taken from a study based on over 15,000 workers across the US, led by researchers at Yale University and Cambridge Judge Business School, it was found that women and men experience different emotions at work, which can lead to underrepresentation of women at every level of workplace leadership.

Women reported greater negative feelings than men across all ranks

Published in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, the study finds that organisations and workplaces must provide support to women with promotions – such as formal mentoring relationships and networking groups – which give them opportunities to deal with emotions more efficiently.

This can give greater emotional support to women as they rise within organisational ranks, as well as heed more success for women in the workplace in dealing with their issues.

Using data from 14,618 adult US workers (50.7% male, 49.3% female) across a variety of ethnicities and industries, they tested factors such as differences in the emotions that men and women experience at work, and the association of gender and emotions and their emotional labour demands.

Emotions were assessed using a sliding scale to indicate how often they had experienced 23 feelings at work in the previous three months. The items included ten positive emotions such as “interested”, “proud” and “inspired”, and 13 negative responses including “bored”, “stressed” and “envious”.

Participants were also asked to report their typical feelings about work in open-ended responses about how their job had made them feel over the past six months.

Can gender interact with rank, to predict emotions?

Compared to men, women reported feeling more overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, tense, and discouraged, and less respected and confident.

Although these feelings decreased for both men and women as they moved up in rank, the extent to which rank diminished negative feelings differed between the sexes – where moving up rank did alleviate frustration and discouragement in both men and women, but it did so more for men than for women.

Jochen Menges, who teaches at both the University of Zurich and Cambridge Judge Business School, said: “It would be hard for anyone to break through a glass ceiling when they feel overwhelmed, stressed, less respected and less confident.

“This emotional burden may not only hamper promotion opportunities for women, but also prevent them from contributing to an organisation to the best of their ability. More needs to be done to level the playing field when it comes to emotional burdens at work.”

Women of colour face stronger glass ceiling effect than white women

Due to women with promotions experiencing more negative feelings when they began climbing the organisational ladder, they are put at a disadvantage in attaining leadership roles.

Amongst lower levels of employment, women stated that they felt more respected than men, yet this reverses as people climb within an organisation, resulting in men feeling significantly more respected than women with promotions.

The study concludes that simply smothering emotion in the workplace isn’t the answer, as preventing negative emotions in the workplace for a prolonged time can increase burnout.

However, there is future research needed into how gender interacts with other categories of identity, such as race and ethnicity, social class, and sexuality.

For instance, the study demonstrated that women of colour face stronger glass ceiling effects than white women – making them need to continuously navigate bias and discrimination based on their gender and race. This expands the scope of workplace issues for women with promotions.


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