But Is It Okay to Yell at Work Either?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In our growing discussion about crying at work, a female reader references a previous one:

Only someone severely unstable or dramatic would cry over their perfume being mistaken for pesticide. Really? I wish I had so little to cry about.

The only time I cried at work: My boss had just told me that the company was going under and none of my coworkers knew. I was going to lose the only job I’d had for the past 11 years, a job I loved. I went AWOL for the worst of it, but my coworkers weren’t stupid; I disappeared and then came back an hour later with a puffy face and red eyes, in a sullen mood. If you can’t take the whole day off, you don’t really have a choice but to cry—if not at work, then near work, and to trust your coworkers not to intrude or think you unprofessional, especially if it is something really upsetting.

This reader’s comment was the most up-voted one from Olga’s piece:

One thing that always confuses me about articles like this: Where do people get this idea that angry men are rewarded in the workplace?

Maybe they are on television. And, I suppose, frequent anger might be tolerated if he has some very unique Steve Jobs-like level of genius. But for the most part, angry men are seen as out-of-control and untrustworthy; their employment usually doesn’t last long. Frequent anger is still unchecked emotion, not unlike frequent crying, and tends to elicit a similar negative response.

The demeanor most consistently rewarded, that subordinates respond best to, tends to be calm confidence and unwavering competence.

This reader is more succinct:

ANY emotional outbursts at work are wrong. Gender is irrelevant.

Another reader shares an anecdote of male anger:

I saw a judge humiliate a female attorney over the length of her skirt. He thought it was too short. He found it distracting. He thought she was being disrespectful to him and the court showing up dressed in such an unprofessional manner. (BTW, she did not look unprofessional.) He was outraged. He told her he was adjourning her client's hearing until the following week so she could show up looking presentable. It was a bail hearing for her client, who was sitting in jail. It was horrifying.

But that sort of outburst would be unusual to this reader:

I’m a management consultant and my clients are largely banks. Whilst people can be quite intense, I’ve never seen “shouty angry” types anywhere. Quiet dickishness, sure, but the raging red-faced lunatic of TV shows just doesn’t really exist in real life. You’d be seen as a terrible team player and an HR liability—both of which are fatal to most career prospects.