Organizations and, if we believe stereotypes, male bosses often hold the belief that people should leave their emotions at the door when they come to work. In working with countless organizations on leadership development and coaching hundreds of clients, the truth is that organizations want and need emotions at work. The key is which emotions and how to manage them.
Truth of Emotions at Work
When leaders tell me they don’t want emotions at work I ask, “you want them to leave ambition, loyalty, trust and inspiration at the door?” Usually not. Organizations want those emotions and others (happy, grateful, practical), they just don’t want the ‘difficult or uncomfortable’ ones. Emotions such as extreme anger in terms of outbursts and sadness or frustration especially if expressed in tears are the ones people don’t want as they don’t know how to deal with them. We aren’t taught emotional literacy in school like we are taught language and numerical literacy. Hence, not knowing what they are (is loyalty an emotion? Yes) or how to be with them.
Emotions as Data
The idea that some emotions are welcome and some not highlights the belief that some emotions are good, and some are bad. Emotions are just sensations and data. Fear is good sometimes as It alerts us to danger. Anxiety is the belief something might hurt us, but we don’t know what, so it is good to keep us vigilant. Tears might be good to indicate passion/commitment or overwhelm and potential burnout. There are no good or bad emotions; they are just present. The key is how to use that data to improve your effectiveness in achieving the organization’s agenda.
Crying at Work
Crying in some work environments might cause others to think you are weak. Articulating verbally that you are frustrated, having the emotion below the surface in your voice for authenticity, can be very powerful. This is why storytelling can be so effective in motivating and inspiring people; it conveys and evokes emotion.
Depending on your environment if you feel the need to cry, do it in private. If you do cry in public, name it, what’s the emotion that prompted the tears. Be comfortable being with your own emotions and teach others with your example of how to be with them. Reassure the other person that you don’t need them to do anything with the tears, potentially you need them to do something about the situation if applicable.
Managing Emotions at Work
The key is understanding your emotions and eventually others’ emotions. What are the emotions telling you? How does that serve the work? What emotions do you want others to feel? What can you do or say to or how can you be with them to create that feeling? This is what can build trust, passion and loyalty. What emotion is someone feeling about a request you’ve made? Sensing this (or asking) will help you know how to influence them better.
It’s how you express emotions at work, how you influence others to feel and sense how others are feeling that is key to building your credibility, effectiveness and having the impact you want.
What could you achieve if you could harness your emotions to improve your impact? Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you be more effective by understanding and using emotions - yours and others?
Anne Taylor is an Executive Coach & Author, helping successful, results-driven leaders improve their people skills to be more effective and satisfied. Her website www.directions-coaching.com offers a range of materials, a sign-up for a complimentary session and a download of the first chapter of her book, “Soft Skills Hard Results.”