Mere days after a blow-out with my boss in which he blamed me for something I didn’t do and I ended up crying in my cubicle and then putting out feelers for new jobs, I heard a radio interview with the author of this book, and knew I just had
to get hold of it. She said that more than half of the women she surveyed admitted to crying in the workplace, and even more disturbing, 42% of the men she surveyed believe that anger is an effective management tool. Since my boss is one of those, I figured I could use a good guide to emotional management at work. And so I did something I rarely do. I bought the book.
The book illustrates the problems clearly and absorbingly, but I didn’t feel it was that strong on practical solutions. The most concrete piece of advice I got was to confide in a friend, which is common sense, really. I’ve gotten better tips from the books she cited in her bibliography, namely
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office
and Ask For It,
which I’m now listening to on audio.
But there was one “theoretical” discussion I really loved. It was presented visually, so we’ll see if my verbal description does it justice.
Think back to elementary algebra and a graph along four quadrants. The horizontal line represents the pessimist/optimist spectrum, and the vertical represents outward expression of emotion to keeping it in. So in quadrant 1 (-x,+y) are pessimists who don’t hold back in verbal expression. The author calls these people “spouters,” and they’re the ones who are most likely to lash out and blame others for their mistakes. In quadrant 2 (+x,+y) are optimists who also express their feeling freely. She calls these “solvers.” They’re the smallest group, but some of the most successful managers are among them. In quadrant 3 (-x,-y) are pessimists who keep feelings in. She calls these the “accepters,” and they’re the biggest group, not in small part because most workplaces force us to accept negative situations and keep quiet about them. And finally, in quadrant 4 (+x,-y) are optimists who keep their feelings in. These she calls “believers” and they're happiest when working for an ideal or a cause. There’s a small questionnaire in the book and an even more comprehensive test on her website if you want to see where you place.
I didn’t take the website test, but I’m a hybrid according to the questionnaire, which, the author says, most people are. She called herself a “spolver,” i.e. something between a “spouter” and a “solver.” I’d place myself somewhere between an “accepter” and a “believer,” which means that if I want to become more of an optimist, I will find my strength in my religious beliefs and dedication to causes. Interestingly, she notes that the “believers” group is female-dominant.
But I do take issue with two things about her chart. The “accepter” is negative on two scales, but I think of acceptance as a positive thing. It sure beats denial. And while the “spouter” is positive on one scale, to me, it’s the most negative profile on the graph. Who’d want to be around a pessimist who vents? So what I learned is that yes, I should increase my expression of feeling to trusted friends in the office (luckily, I’ve got a few), but becoming more optimistic is the more important step. Because no matter what 42% of men surveyed may think, anger is a counter-productive management tool.