Female anger at work seen as worse, a character flaw

Psychological Science has just published an eye-opening study that found that women who express anger at work were thought of more negatively than men and were assumed to be ‘angry people’ or ‘out of control’. Male colleagues who did the same were typically viewed in a more positive light and were assumed to be upset by circumstances.

The study was led by psychologist Victoria Brescoll and the abstract of the study is below:

Can an angry woman get ahead? Status conferral, gender, and expression of emotion in the workplace.

Psychol Sci. 2008 Mar;19(3):268-75.

Three studies examined the relationships among anger, gender, and status conferral. As in prior research, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness. However, both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals than on angry male professionals. This was the case regardless of the actual occupational rank of the target, such that both a female trainee and a female CEO were given lower status if they expressed anger than if they did not. Whereas women’s emotional reactions were attributed to internal characteristics (e.g., “she is an angry person,””she is out of control”), men’s emotional reactions were attributed to external circumstances. Providing an external attribution for the target person’s anger eliminated the gender bias. Theoretical implications and practical applications are discussed.

Along similar lines, a study we reported last year found that women who bargained for more money during job interviews were typically thought of as more ‘difficult’ than men who did the same, particularly when a man was doing the evaluating.

Link to abstract of study on women and workplace anger.


  1. Posted December 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I really don’t know if I agree with this or not. I don’t think it’s wrong for women to express anger at work. But if that is viewed very negatively, then women should be aware of this study. I think it’s only viewed negatively because women are seen as calm people. As for the information about men, I agree that men who express what they are feeling are better than men who keeps their feelings to themselves, because men are not seen as the expressive type of people and expressing those feelings could help them relax.

  2. Posted January 5, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think women who express anger at work should be viewed negatively. Yes, anger is negative. But people, men or women, have the right to express what they think or feel. Women do have more patience than men. And you have to understand that when women express anger, that may mean they’ve had enough.

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