That is One Angry Lady: How a Woman’s Anger Influences Other Women in a Professional Setting

Emotion has the power to influence others (Van Kleef, Van Doorn, Heerdink, & Koning, 2011). For example, expressing the emotion of anger can allow one to appear more certain and competent about themselves (Salerno, Hagene, & Jay, 2017). This perception of being competent and certain can increase an individual’s influencing capabilities and credibility, yet this is not always true for women (Salerno & Hagene, 2015).

Previous research has shown that gender affects the ability to use anger when trying to influence others (Salerno & Hagene, 2015).

For example, Salerno et. al (2018) found when a male attorney expressed anger in a closing argument they were deemed as more influential than when a female expressed the same emotion and closing argument. There is a substantial amount of research that has confirmed this gender bias in professional settings (Salerno & Hagene, 2015; Salerno, Hagene, & Jay, 2017; Salerno, Phalen, Reyes, & Schweitzer, 2018;), yet there is no research that looks at a how a woman’s attributed anger in a professional setting affects her ability to influence other women.

This paper serves to alleviate this gap in the literature by viewing this phenomenon through the theoretical lens of Social Information Theory of Emotion which was created by Van Kleef (2009) to explain how emotions can influence attitudes and behaviors (Van Kleef, 2011).

To begin, an overview of the stereotypes women face regarding their emotion of anger will be discussed. This will then lead into an explanation of Van Kleef’s (2009) Social Information Theory of Emotion to explain emotions influencing capabilities. However, not only does a woman’s anger affect her influencing capabilities it reduces her credibility.

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Therefore, a clarification of how a woman’s anger affects her credibility will be explored. Finally, this will lead into the description of previous studies that have analyzed how a woman’s anger makes her less influential and credible.

Anger and Gender (2)

At a young age, the stereotypes of how women should express emotions are taught (Martin, 2017). Martin (2017) conducted a study looking at how children’s television shows exhibit stereotypes of emotion and gender. He found boys were coded to display the emotion of anger significantly more often than girls. There is research showing that this emotional stereotype has effects on a woman’s influencing capabilities later in her career (Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2008). Heilman et. al (2004) explain this emotional stereotype is even worse for women in male dominated fields like politics and law, and that these stereotypes create norms of how women should behave and express their emotions. In addition, Brescoll and Uhlmann (2008) state that women are expected to be kind and modest, and that anything other than these emotions can evoke negative responses.

These negative responses for women who express anger may be a result of being perceived as less influential. As previously stated, women and men can express identical messages while being angry, yet empirical evidence has concurred these women are typically considered less influential than their male counterparts (Salerno & Hagene, 2015; Salerno, Hagene, & Jay, 2017; Salerno, Phalen, Reyes, & Schweitzer, 2018). However, this research tends to compare men to women which creates a gap in the literature when answering the question regarding how a woman’s anger may be influential to other women in professional settings. To alleviate this gap, it is imperative to understand how emotions have the power to influence others.

Social Information Theory of Emotion (EASI)

The study of emotions has generally been focused on the influential effects on an intrapersonal level ( Van Kleef, 2009). However, Van Kleef (2009) has found emotions have the ability to influence others, and from this the Social Information Theory of Emotions has an interpersonal approach. Van Kleef (2009) states the main objective of this theory is to show that, “emotional expressions provide information to observers which may influence their behavior (and attitude)” (p. 184). This theory has two dimensions that explain how an observer is influenced. These two dimensions are affective reactions and inferential processing (Van Kleef, Van Doorn, Heerdink, & Koning, 2011).

Affective reactions clarify emotions can be expressed and have an impact on likeability (Van Kleef, 2009). For example, studies have shown when anger is expressed observers deemed that individual as unlikeable and less influential (Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004). Research has also shown this unlikability has a direct effect on a woman’s capability to influence when she expresses anger in a professional setting. For example, Schnieder et. al (2010) found women who express anger in professional setting are deemed unlikeable and perceived as competent, yet if they are liked they are perceived as incompetent. Although women who express anger in a professional setting are considered competent, they are still perceived as less influential due to the fact that their expression is noticed as being unlikeable. This confirms when a woman expresses anger it affects her likeability, and that women face double standards when they express their emotions.

The second dimension of the theory is influential processing. This occurs when an observer views an emotion from another individual and makes a judgment about how they should react (Van Kleef,2009). For example, Sy et. al (2005) conducted a study where organizational teams worked on a project, and after some time a leader came on a television screen expressing a message either conveyed using a happy emotion or an angry emotion. What they found was that regardless of the message being identical, the expression of anger made the teams infer they were conducting an inadequate job (Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005; Van Kleef, 2009). This study is an example that highlights how when a person observes an emotion they make inferences about how they should feel and behave. Similarly, women who express anger in leadership positions are inferred to be less effective and have little influence on other’s behaviors or attitudes (Lewis, 2000). Not only can a woman’s anger expressed in a professional setting make her be perceived as unlikeable and ineffective, it also reduces her credibility (Salerno, Phalen, Reyes, & Schweitzer, 2018).


Aristotle explained how important credibility is when trying to influence others, and through the creation of ethos he rationalizes experience and trustworthiness are two main attributes that make up an individual’s credibility (Kenton, 1989). These same thoughts and ideas stand true in the literature today. King and Sereno (1973) state that “the greater the trustworthiness or expertness, the greater the change toward the position advocated by the communicator” (p.220). Unfortunately, women may be considered untrustworthy when they express anger. This may be due to the effects this emotion has on their facial expressions.

Hess et. al (2016) found when a woman is angry there are certain facial expressions that accompany the emotion including a reduction in brow ridge distance and the mouth region becoming tightened and square like (p.2). They explain when these facial expressions occur they are recognized as more of a masculine facial feature. For example, Hess et. al (2016) clarify that society has linked facial expressions of happiness to feminine qualities and anger to masculine qualities. This shows when a woman expresses anger it is reducing her trustworthiness because her emotions are going against the social norms that society has set in place regarding how a woman should express anger. Due to breaking this social norm, women who express anger lose credibility.

Similarly, a woman’s expertise may be challenged when she expresses anger. Emotion theorists believe the display of anger can communicate competence and entitlement (Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2008), and this results in the perceived ability to be an expert (Bohner, Ruder, & Erb, 2002). As previously mentioned, research has shown when a woman expresses anger in professional settings they are deemed as unlikeable, yet are perceived as competent (Schnieder, Tinsley, Cheldelin, & Amanatullah, 2008). Carli (2001) states ’s this competency has a direct link to perceived expertise and derives from a woman’s ability to express a message at a rapid pace with little to no hesitations and by being able to communicate directly. However, Carli (2001) also states, “women are perceived to be less expert and knowledgeable except in situations that favor female expertise” (p.729).

This shows when a woman expresses anger in male dominated professional settings, including politics and law, their likeability and competency are reduced, and therefore they are not perceived as an expert in their field. This then leads to the demise of a woman’s credibility. Based off of the previous section regarding Social Information Theory of Emotion and this section of credibility, it is clear to comprehend when a woman expresses anger their influencing capabilities diminish. Most of the literature covering this topic analyzes a woman’s credibility and influencing capabilities by comparing it to males, yet previous literature does not explain how a woman’s anger influences other women directly.

Male vs. Female Anger

Salerno and Hagene (2015) wrote an article that compared men and women’s influencing capabilities when expressing anger in a jury setting. They predicted that men would be more influential when expressing anger versus women. Participants of this study were 244 “jury-eligible undergraduates”, and of those 244 students 65% were female (p. 583). What they found was that men were more influential when expressing anger than women. Although the authors did not hypothesize whether a woman expressing anger would be more influential to other women, the fact that almost all their participants were females shows a woman’s anger does not have the power to influence other women.

An additional article by Brescoll and Uhlmann (2008) analyze how anger can affect perceived competency. The authors do this by having participants watch videos of job interviews for professional careers where women and men express either feelings of sadness or anger. The results showed that angry males were considered more competent than angry females, yet the participants of this study were predominantly male. Although this study confirms women are inferred as being less credible when expressing anger, it does not look at the relationship between an angry woman in a professional setting and her ability to influence other women.

Similarly, Salerno et. al (2018) conducted three studies on how effective male and female attorneys are perceived when expressing anger. In congruence with this paper, the authors used Van Kleef’s (2009) Social Information Theory of Emotion to explain how an angry woman is perceived as less influential. They confirmed that males are considered to be more effective when expressing anger than females in a professional setting. Parallel with Salerno and Hagene (2015), most their participants were female. The results of the study showed the appropriateness of anger was higher for male attorneys than female attorneys. This is in line with previous research stating that there are stereotypes and norms of how a woman should express the emotion of anger. In addition, the authors found that female attorneys who expressed anger had negative inferences drawn about them and were considered less effective. Again, this is in agreement with the two previous sections regarding Social Information Theory of Emotion and credibility. However, they did not have strictly female participants while conducting the study.

The previously mentioned research confirms that when women in professional settings express anger they are considered less influential, less credible, and less effective. These studies are consistent with Van Kleef’s (2009) theory by stating that the emotion of anger does have the power to effect influencing capabilities, and it is in accordance with the previous discussion regarding credibility by showing that when a female expresses anger she is considered less credible than her male counterpart. However, none of these theories specifically look at the influential capabilities of a woman expressing anger to other women in a professional setting. Therefore, the following hypotheses was generated:

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That is One Angry Lady: How a Woman’s Anger Influences Other Women in a Professional Setting. (2021, Dec 05). Retrieved from

That is One Angry Lady: How a Woman’s Anger Influences Other Women in a Professional Setting
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