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Big Girls Do Cry

Encouraging emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Megan Marsh
Insider
Megan Marsh
Big Girls Do Cry

How many of you LOVED high school? And I mean really loved it.

If I had a time machine and I opened the door to let anyone jump in and go back to:

  • Braces and pimples;
  • Awkward kisses;
  • Homecoming dances to Salt-N-Pepa’s “shoop shoop shoop”;
  • Pagers
  • 90210

But also:

  • Tears — lots of them!
  • Your first breakup;
  • Being grounded;
  • A friend stabbing you in the back.

When I was in high school, I was recruited by a college coach to play field hockey. She told my future teammates that the reason she made me her top priority as a recruit was because during my hometown visit I stepped on another girl’s head (an opponent) with my cleats and kept on running until I scored a goal. Nothing got in my way. I was as fierce as it came.

It wasn’t abnormal that during high school games I had to be stopped by a referee and told to not be as aggressive and that I needed to tone it down. I wasn’t like the other ladies out there on the field. “Stop playing so hard,” I was told.

When it was game time, I turned the intensity on and turned it up. I ran my competition over if they didn’t move. I had strength, mentally and physically. I was confident in myself, my skill, and my ability. I was prepared to conquer the world if the opportunity was put in front of me.

I was the captain of my D1 team, a natural leader because I didn’t fear a good challenge and I stood by what I believed in.

I imagine now that this was the reason my father was so concerned about me when I had my first breakup and breakdown. I was inconsolable! I don’t think I stopped crying for three days.

Now, none of you ladies can relate to this, can you?

It was unusual for my family to see me so vulnerable and upset. In an attempt to fix the situation my younger sister did what any loving little sister would do. With the hope of pulling on my ex-boyfriend’s heart strings, she called and read my ex-boyfriend’s entries from my journal!

It worked. We got back together a few days later. No more tears … for now.

I am the same way with everything I take on in life. At my business, I walk through the doors and I am all business. I’m focused, I’m sincere, and I’m determined to help people. I don’t have time to chit-chat at the water cooler. I don’t talk about people behind their backs and I can go to bed at night knowing, if I never wake up and I meet my God, that I have given everything that I have for every person he has blessed me with serving.

But, I have learned through all the intensity and all the killer instincts that no matter how tough and intense I was, big girls do cry. I know this because when I finally entered the real world of people, adults, and business after graduating I quickly realized how difficult it was going to be to lead, to reach my goals, and stand up for what I wanted and believed in. It would be even more difficult if I didn’t learn how to control my emotions and face the mental warfare that so many of us get trapped in.

My athletic days and strong female coaches gave me the confidence and ability to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. The real world made me question everything and everyone because they did not have those same experiences of a team lifting them up, supporting them, and believing in them. As an athlete, particularly part of a team, I was taught to welcome someone better and faster than me with open arms and as an opportunity for us all to get better. The real world introduced me to some very different experiences that brought me to tears on a weekly basis. I have since learned that I am not the only one that has had the same experience.

Did you know:

41% of women have cried at work vs. 9% of men, which can be explained by a few factors:

  • Women have more prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone produced by our bodies and one role it plays is emotional control. Women have 6x the prolactin in their systems compared to men.
  • Sociological influences. Women aren’t taught to suppress emotions from a young age like men are. Therefore crying is a natural reaction to the emotions we feel.

However, with that being said, and science aside, being told you’re not eligible for a promotion or leadership role because you’re emotional is down-right infuriating.

Hearing you are “too emotional” while watching less-seasoned male colleagues rise up the ranks due to their aggressive and argumentative behavior that is coined “assertive” quite literally drives women mad or straight out the door.

Being treated differently as a woman, compared to the men in leadership positions, is not good for business.

  • Men might get upset and then rant and rave, possibly threaten to quit.
  • Women will most likely cry but stay silent until they feel safe sharing what has upset them with someone they deem “safe” to confide in.
emotional intelligence

The good news? there is value to our tears, and the idea that emotions are bad and have no place in business is down-right wrong! There is evidence that emotions and empathy specifically are good for business.

The problem that we all have to overcome is that men built the professional word and devised the rules that were geared toward them at the time. Women are still trying to figure out how to behave in this world where we are told to be calm under pressure, diligent in the way we carry ourselves, and always mindful of keeping our emotions in check.

Companies and business leaders need to have managers and leaders who are in tune with their emotions and their team’s emotions.

They need to encourage everyone to not stifle emotions or ambitions to please others, but rather encourage curiosity, empathy, and understanding.

As professional women, we bring value to our teams and create a dynamic that didn’t exist 50 years ago. Our emotions are a big piece of this dynamic.

Just as we would tell a male colleague who is upset and agitated to cool off or go take a cold shower, we need to find ways to address women when their emotions bubble over. If you don’t do this, you will miss out on many opportunities for your people and teams to grow in a positive way.

When one of the women on my team comes to me with tears in their eyes, I tell them to “cry it out” or “get it out” with me, because it is only when they feel safe that they will bring the real issue to the surface, which many times benefits everyone on the team and the company.

It is not uncommon for men and women to get emotional during our weekly meetings because we have encouraged each person’s individual value, and we focus on the pursuit of our company values, instead of norms and biases.

The most challenging thing we have to address is the double-edged sword where a single action or show of emotion can be perceived two different ways.

We have all heard or seen examples where a woman who is:

  • Kind, compassionate, and is well liked but told they lack leadership.
  • Confident and outspoken but chastised for being “too aggressive” or competitive.

Supporting your team to harness and channel emotions, while allowing an outlet, rather than suppressing or criticising, will keep your team more engaged and motivated. It will make them want to work for you for a long time to come.

Suppressing Emotions creates a negative atmosphere. Men are less likely to seek help for mental health issues. This type of habit not only damages productivity but can also lead to missed opportunities for self-development and improvement.

Above all else the people who feel emotional about their jobs are the ones who really, really care! As a business owner or leader you should want an office full of tears and tissues!

Emotional Intelligence is vital for selling to clients, building morale within your team and building business relationships

  • High EI makes for a top performing leader.
  • Self Awareness you need to develop a keen understanding of who you are in the world.

So, how do you improve your empathy & emotional intelligence at work? Take the time to TeamBuild.

Role Playing Games

Have team members put themselves in someone else’s shoes and see different perspectives. We have had adult show and tell, where our team each brought an artifact that had the biggest significance to them. Everyone took a turn telling the story behind the artifact. Every time we have done this exercise, there has never been a dry eye, gender aside.

Show your team that you care about them and their feelings. You can do this a number of ways:

  • Birthday celebrations.
  • Milestone celebrations.
  • Hand-written notes.
  • KAM Bams — this is an anonymous message sent about other team members.

Use your voice to support women

  • Amplification is one example where someone will repeat another woman’s idea if they are ignored or overlooked. This results in the person getting credit where it is due.
  • “No interruption” rule: Privately make men aware of their habit and how it makes people feel.

Empathy is vital for understanding your customers’ pain points and helps you have the ability to solve them. Empathy helps leaders understand their staff’s developmental needs and motivate them.

Misconceptions about emotions

Tears are not always a sign of sadness. Tears are usually due to anger or frustration, so if you have a woman who works for or with you, find out what she is frustrated about. Get to the root of the issue and put yourself in her shoes. Would you be as upset if you were experiencing the same issues?

Some men withhold feedback from female coworkers because they fear they will cry.

Studies have found that in board meetings, women spoke as much as men only when the board was at least 80% female. Men spoke the same amount whether or not they were in a minority.

Find and test ways to get everyone’s input and feedback. Use the method that results in the most open and honest communication, until you see that all members feel safe to be who they are.

Above all else, put on your big girl shoes, those 4-inch heels and grow into the significant person you were created to be. Dreams often come one size too big so we can grow into them.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine March 2022 issue.
Megan Marsh
Megan Marsh,
Owner, Keystone Mortgage Alliance

Megan Marsh is owner of Keystone Alliance Mortgage

Published on
Mar 31, 2022
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