INSIGHT: IRENE HULME – Emotional Vulnerability in the Workplace


Irene Hulme has had an extensive career in radio and has worked as a Program Director for MIX Melbourne, NOVA 919 Adelaide and is currently the Group Content Director at SCA Adelaide. Irene chats to The Broad Side about women working in radio needing to toughen up.

I thought I’d start with a lesson that I know will resonate with all of you.

There are certain emotions and actions that have been stereotypically linked to each gender, women are perceived as more emotional and men aggressive, the fact of the matter is, women cry and most men don’t, unless of course their footy side is not doing too well.

Is emotional vulnerability in the workplace a good or bad thing? We all have an opinion and I’m sure the question will divide; I can only speak from my own experiences.

I was an eager 15 yr old when I started my radio career at SAFM; former Austereo Group Program Director Jeff Allis was the drive announcer at the time and someone I admired. Jeff’s advice to me then in regards to succeeding in the radio industry was to “toughen up”, of course back then, as a naive teen, it meant little, but I grew to realise how important that lesson was.

I went through my career as an obsessed radio fan, I couldn’t get enough of it, wanting to learn, eager to get in to the heart of it, programming, the closer I got, the more passionate and intense I became, some felt I had developed all the skills to take the next step and others felt I lacked emotional control.

It took me 20 dedicated years to get my first role as a Content Director/Program Director, through that time, I saw so many men bypass me, some with more radio experience and others clearly lacking, it wasn’t my gender that held me back, nor my radio knowledge, dedication and passion, it was a perceived inability to control myself emotionally and as a Program Director emotional strength is a core competency.

Whether we like it or not, sometimes our competence is judged on our emotional control which brings me to my point based on my experience, in order to succeed in radio, you can’t be ‘that girl’, the girl who couldn’t cope when things got tough, that panicked, that was emotive.

Not everyone will agree with my sentiments, some may find the idea of withholding emotion controversial, Sheryl Sandberg, COO for Facebook is an advocate for crying at work, she thinks sharing true emotions can build stronger relationships, she doesn’t work in radio!

Of course I found myself at times during robust arguments doing everything in my power to hold tears back, I’m proud to say, to this day, I’ve never cried at work but I most certainly have lost my s*it.
There’s nothing wrong with being expressive, joyous, sad, disappointed, emotional stability means that you have the control to adapt when required, it does come with age and I’ve got plenty of years on you all I’m sure, but I also felt myself getting stronger with every challenging scenario.

You’re in a professional environment, radio can be brutal so toughen up, be strong, positive, resilient and you’ll be seen as a force to be reckoned with in no time. And if you disagree, don’t cry about it.

Irene Hulme

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Irene Hulme
Irene Hulme