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Companies are emotional minefields, littered with conflicting demands and subject to unwritten rules. You have to be genuine (but not overly so), professional (but not rigid), and friendly (but not invasive). How can you navigate this explosive terrain? By positioning your “emotional cursor” in the right place.

Emotions have long been unwelcomein the work environment. In the past, they have been seen as embarrassing, misplaced, or a sign of weakness. The general rule of thumb has always been to deny how you feel. Butyou’re not a robot, nor are your employees. Today emotions occupy a prominent spot in the professional sphere: teamwork involves conflict, which implies there are emotions to be managed; the younger generation is shaking things up, expressing their feelings more easily and openly; and organizations are no longer governed by the old, hierarchical codes that once provided a clear, structured framework and rules of conduct. In short, emotions have a pretty significant role to play. At the same time, authors Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy argue you still need to be clear about which emotions are helpful and which are harmful. Emotions must be carefully balanced and — above all — acknowledged. No Hard Feelingsaims to help you sort through your feelings — your own and your team’s. Then you can decide which to toss aside and which to keep so you can become more effective andhappier at work.

Drop the mask and leverage the power of emotions

Emotions have gotten bad press: expressing frustration, anger, or fear is still taboo.Various studies[1]have found, however, that emotional intelligence is a more important factor in professional success than IQ. Contrary to popular belief, people who let themselves feel their emotions (good or bad) make the best decisions — if they don’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed.

Far from leading to erratic or irrational behavior, emotions are powerful drivers of individual and collective commitment and motivation.Howard Schultz,now chairman emeritus of Starbucks, returned to the coffee chain after an absence of eight years in 2008. He had the courage to let himself cry in front of his assembled employees, expressing his sadness at finding the business —– which was flourishing when he left –– in such a perilous state. But Schultz didn’t just drop the mask, which is itself highly unusual for a boss; he also put forward concrete proposals for recovery, and invited his employees to react. In less than a month, Schultz had received over 5,000 enthusiastic emails, and by 2010 Starbucks’ stock was back on track. The mix of emotions and action had hit home.

Acknowledge your feelings without drowning in them

Repressing your emotions isn’t good for either your performance or your peace of mind. On the other hand, expressing your emotions without filtering them in advance is equally risky. To help you navigate between these two extremes, Fosslien and Duffy recommend the following steps if you find that your “emotional cursor” is thrown off when the stakes are high.

  • Acceptance:carefully examine all your emotions, including the most negative, without judging them. And just because you’re listening to your feelings doesn’t mean you have to act on them. Quite the opposite, in fact: by analyzing your emotions and stepping back from them, you’ll be able to tackle them or even use them in an effective way.

 

[1].“Why emotionally intelligent people are more successful” by Harvey Deutchendorf (Fast Company, June 22, 2015), “Being Emotional during decision making – good or bad? An empirical investigation” by Myeong-Gu Seo and Lisa Fledman Barret (Academy of Management Journal50, 2007).

 

Excerpt from Business Digest N°297, June 2019

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