I'm Just Passionate!: Attributing Emotional Displays to Passion versus Emotionality
People often express emotions at work that violate workplace display rules. In particular, expressing self-focused sadness is often viewed as inappropriate. Across three experimental studies, we find that the attributions that people make for their inappropriate emotional displays influence interpersonal perception and hiring decisions, and may shape the display rules themselves. In Study 1, we find that when a target attributed an incident of crying at work to passion, as compared to attributing it to emotionality or not making an attribution at all, it increased participants' perceptions of his or her work performance, competence, status, and dedication. In Study 2, we find that, when asked to recall a time when a co-worker cried or appeared upset at work, reflecting about how the emotional display demonstrates the co-worker's passionate nature (versus emotional nature) caused participants to rate the co-worker as a better performer, higher status, more competent, and more dedicated. In Study 3, we find that participants were more likely to hire a job candidate who, in the job interview, attributed a past incident of "getting choked up" to their passion than to their emotionality, and perceived the candidate as more competent and higher status. In addition to improving interpersonal perceptions, Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated that passion attributions also shifted people's implicit beliefs about emotional expression in the workplace broadly: workplace emotional expressions are considered more appropriate when emotional expressions were linked to passion than when they were linked to emotionality.