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Being emotional vs being passionate at work

How to convey your passion without being labeled "emotional"

by Jo Miller  |  7817 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

In a recent workshop, a woman approached me with this question:

"In many leadership seminars, we are told to not take things personally at work and not get emotionally attached to our projects and not communicate 'emotionally.' In the same seminars, we are told to be passionate about our work and convey that passion to our peers. How does one convey passion without emotion in the workplace?"

Welcome to the confusing world of being a woman in today’s workforce!

In her wonderful book, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, Gail Evans lists a number of things that men do at work, that women can’t. Men can get away with crying, fidgeting, yelling, and using bad manners -- women can’t. When a guy cries, it is seen as a powerful and moving display of emotion. When a woman cries, she’s seen as weak and unstable.

And so it goes for being emotional at work.

When people refer to women as being “too emotional,” they refer to a lack of emotional intelligence -- someone who is moody and volatile. Guys may be able to get away with this at work, but women can’t. Do I think this is fair? No! But today’s workplace environment is what it is, and if you want to thrive, there are some rules to play by.

The most successful women I have worked with have a high degree of emotional intelligence, evidenced by qualities like resiliency, grace under fire, tenacity, flexibility, and composure.

For these women, being passionate means having a compelling vision, speaking with conviction, not being afraid to voice opinions, and articulately debating their position.

The higher you rise in an organization, the more of your time will be taken up playing the game of corporate politics -- and it pays to understand the unwritten, unspoken rules of the game. One of those rules is that as a women, you will be judged not only by your talent and results, but by your emotional intelligence. When women are represented in leadership in higher numbers, this will change. But we have to get there first.

About the Author

Jo Miller is CEO Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. To learn more about coaching and seminars, visit

Read more by Jo Miller

2 comments so far...

  • I toil in a workplace full of both passion and emotion: an elementary school. It's tough, but possible, to remain calm when an emotional parent is on the attack.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Daisy on 1st May 2008

  • Ah the frustration of a double standard. Will we ever break free of this?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 30th April 2008