Emotions in the workplace

In days gone by, one of the unwritten rules of working life was that idea that in order to be professional, you leave your emotions at home. Big feelings had no place in the workplace. But that’s not realistic. We are emotional creatures after all. 

Luckily, attitudes have changed and softened, and continue to evolve in this realm. In fact, research shows the opposite to be true. Emotions in the workplace do have their place and should be welcomed.

Leaders and organisations who create cultures where people feel safe to express their emotions have a workforce who feel more secure and content in their jobs. Leaders recognise that it’s not healthy to have a workplace where employees are encouraged to always stifle their feelings.

The focus these days is on ensuring employees feel a sense of belonging, employee mental health, workplace contentment. Smart leaders are in-tune with the collective emotional wellbeing of their company, actively seeking out how people are feeling about things. Good leaders these days want to know what makes their people happy, proud, fulfilled, excited, passionate. And, just as importantly, what makes them feel less than happy.

Being emotionally in touch has become a lot more acceptable and sought after than it ever was before. 

How to handle too much emotion 

So, while we can celebrate a more emotionally intelligent workplace, there is very much a balance between expressing your emotions and being professional. As leaders it’s important to ensure our team can find that balance and can keep their emotions in check when it’s needed. 

Despite our best efforts, there may be times when emotions are running too high, and it’s necessary to step in to manage the situation. Here are a few tips on how to effectively do so; 

  1. Find out what the issue is.
    Sometimes the simple act of being heard by their manager and having feelings acknowledged is enough to diffuse the emotion. If there is inter-personal conflict, take the time to meet with each individual to get to the heart of the matter and to better understand the issues, the different points of view and how it has triggered an emotional response.

    Go into these meetings with a therapist hat on, summoning calm, empathy and active listening. Ensure your recipient feels safe to express themselves and feels you are truly listening. Often fear is behind the emotional outburst. Are they fearful of failing, of having their responsibilities taken away from them, is it a matter of having too much on their plates and the fear they can’t cope. Once they have expressed themselves repeat it back to them in your own words to see if they agree with your interpretation of the issue. 
  2. Agree on a way forward.
    Once you have understood the issue at hand, agree on a positive way forward. If workload is the issue, can you handball some work to another member of the team, or yourself to alleviate the feeling of overwhelm?

    If there’s been a communication breakdown with another employee, can you work out a better communication framework with the team to alleviate this tension? Does some mediation need to be set up to work through bigger more tangled issues between two or more colleagues? Figure out how to make the situation better and take action straight away, you want your colleague to walk away from the meeting feeling they have been validated and taken seriously and that the situation is diffused and things will get better. 
  3. Check in with them.
    Once everyone has had time to adjust to the actions taken, check in privately with each of the individuals involved. See how they are feeling, if things are better, what else can be done.

    Make sure they feel valued and respected. This doesn’t need to be a formal meeting, it can be a brief phone call or grab 5 minutes with them following a group meeting. Whatever works for you and your team. 
  4. Walk the walk and talk the talk.
    There’s nothing more effective than setting the benchmark for how to behave within the team, by leading by example. Actively demonstrate to your team just how you expect them to behave and how to keep emotions in check.

    People with high emotional intelligence are aware of and acknowledge their emotions, but are not driven by them.

    Sure, it’s natural to feel frustrated and angry with someone who says something you disagree with, but eye-rolls, huffing and puffing, swearing, storming off or name-calling generally don’t go done so well in the workplace.

    Emotional intelligence means you are able to keep your emotions in check and communicate with people with respect while remaining assertive, not aggressive. 

If you would like to organise a tailored leadership workshop with me this year get in touch today. I’d love to help!

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