I had an interesting chat with a friend and fellow coach recently about emotions at work. It got me thinking that, unfortunately, the term “emotion” when related to the business world has somewhat of a negative association to it.
I decided to do some research on Google to get an overview of what one would get by plotting the words “emotions at work” into the well used search engine. And, unsurprisingly, a large part of the first pages related to how employees can handle and control their emotions during working hours. Basically, after a quick overview, I found it to be nothing but fancy terms on how to hide your emotions and act like a robot from nine to five.
It seems to me that emotions are thought of as something to wash off in the morning shower before you leave for work. Something to be left at home. In the business world, you shall consist of values and qualities, not emotions. The problem here, as I see it, is that everything is driven by (or at least associated with) emotions. This applies to our working situation as well as everything else. We work because we want money because we think it will buy us happiness. Or – we work because we want to use our qualities because we want to feel a sense of accomplishment and self-fulfilment. And let us not forget an important aspect here – we have loads of emotions directly related to our working situation. These can be both positive and negative. Even positive feelings in this matter can eventually be replaced by negative ones if we don’t feel our emotions are being considered. Emotions also affect our creativity, motivation and working environment. If negative or unconsidered, this can ultimately lead to sick leave, turnover and even counter-productive work behavior. Unfortunately, hiding emotions does not mean they stop existing. They are very much present, and trying to push them down can actually make them grow stronger. So I guess my question here is how can organizations and leaders afford to pretend their business is made of robots?
My wish for 2016 is for emotional intelligence and understanding to be better included in organizational development. I wish for leaders to stop seing employee emotions to be something uncomfortable and invisible, and rather accept the great benefit that comes with making sense of, and working with them. Emotion is the only resource you are guaranteed to never run out of! But its value remains hidden until you acknowledge it. Just think about your business vision and your organizational values – without your employees it will be nothing but words on a piece of paper. Feeling ownership is impossible without emotion. Fully understanding this might just be the last piece of the puzzle to achieve long-term value instead of too much focus on the immediate.
Work with it, not against it!
Note: I am not at all suggesting that we should mistake work for a therapy situation. I am merely saying we should understand it and take it into consideration in developing and changing our organizations for the better.