Woman at work

Women are more likely than men to fake being happy at work – here’s why that’s a problem

Posted by for Careers

According to new research by job platform Ladders, women are almost 10% more likely to fake their happiness at work – and it’s a bigger problem than you expect.

The saying “fake it ’til you make it” is one that gets thrown around a lot. In career advice and self-help books, you’ll often find experts praising the benefits of “faking it” when it comes to overcoming feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt.

There are also plenty of times in life when we feel pressured to hide how we’re really feeling – especially at work. Unlike faking it during a big presentation or particularly important meeting, faking and obscuring our emotions can be damaging to our mental health

In fact, a recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Arizona found that people who hide their emotions at work could be putting their wellbeing and career performance at risk.

With this in mind, the results of new research into faking happiness at work by job search company Ladders have given us cause for concern. 

According to the new statistics, 81% of the people who said they were unhappy at work admitted to putting on a positive face in front of their colleagues. And alarmingly, out of this group, women were much more likely to fake happiness (86%) compared to men (77%). 

The data is perhaps not particularly surprising if you consider the narrative around women in the workplace. For a long time, sexist stereotypes which dismiss women for showing emotions in the workplace have continued to prevail, with the age-old comeback “is it your time of the month?” being carted out when any woman dares to show signs of emotion. 

And if a woman dares to show little emotion or walk around the office with a straight face, chances are they’ll be told to “cheer up” or “smile”. 

A woman unhappy at work
Women were almost 10% more likely to fake happiness at work than their male colleagues.

According to the new study, the impact of faking our happiness at work is much bigger than the damage it can do to our wellbeing and career performance. 

Out of the employees who admitted faking happiness, 66% said they were not getting as much sleep as they should, and 18% said it caused them to be short with someone in person. People who were putting on a positive face were also more likely to eat unhealthy foods and avoid exercise. 

With these results in mind, it’s clear that prioritising our happiness in the workplace is incredibly important. According to the survey, those who were genuinely happy at work were more likely to be promoted in six months or less, over twice as likely to feel successful in their careers and three times more likely to feel optimistic about their career growth.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that being happy at work shouldn’t be a negotiable aspect of our jobs – it should always be the main priority. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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