Why harnessing your emotions at work can be beneficial to your career￼￼
We’ve been taught that emotions in the workplace are unprofessional and should be left at home, but the opposite is true. Emotions are the real fuel behind business success because they drive motivation and purpose, which are essential for engagement and productivity at work.
No one, including leaders, can leave their emotions at the door when they engage in work-related conversations. After all, we are humans and not machines.
Therefore, it’s not about removing emotions from the workplace or trying to make everyone feel happy all the time. It’s about recognising that everyone has different emotional reactions to the same situation. Based on their backgrounds, life experiences, or motivations, each individual will respond differently.
Those emotions are real, valid and valuable at work. Getting comfortable with discussing emotions in the workplace is essential for nurturing more inclusive, collaborative and psychologically safe cultures.
If we don’t understand what those reactions are and why they happen, we’re going to have a hard time building a productive working environment and communicating effectively with others. People who don’t have an emotional connection to their work fail to be productive and are often disinterested in their colleagues. So, instead of trying to shut down emotions, we should deal with them constructively by acknowledging them, understanding them and managing our reaction to them. Here are four examples of how you can do this:
Put a name to your emotions
While it may sound simple or straightforward, people often find it difficult to describe their emotions. We fall back on default generic emotions such as “I am happy/sad/angry” but there are so many more nuances to the emotions you may be feeling. From being happy because you feel appreciated and connected to being sad because you may be feeling alone and alienated or angry because you may be feeling judged and frustrated.
If you are feeling happy, sad or angry don’t just settle for this, dig deeper by describing what leads to the happy, sad or angry feeling. That will help you become familiar with a whole range of other emotions.
Acknowledge your emotions
Acknowledging your emotions may feel uncomfortable, especially when the emotions are negative ones. You may be tempted to dismiss them, either as being new and unfamiliar to you, or because cultural norms may not allow you to openly talk about these emotions.
But you can learn as much from your negative emotions as from those that are positive. Simply dismissing those emotions doesn’t mean that they will go away.
Processing your insight into emotion
Once you put a name to an emotion and acknowledge it, the next step is try and get to the root of it. What caused it to emerge?
Say, for example, that you identified and accepted the fact that you are currently frustrated in the workplace. Once you have explored that further, you might realise the reason for your frustration is that people are not seeing the value you can offer because the work that lands on your desk is not very interesting and does not allow you to demonstrate your skills and potential.
How can you use this insight and put it to good use? It could give you the starting point for a constructive conversation with your boss as to potential work opportunities you would like to explore and how you can gain access to them. Of course, it’s important to remember that just going to the boss’s office and saying that you are frustrated is not going to lead to a real solution, let alone a solution that benefits you. In isolation, this approach is likely to cause the opposite effect and lead your boss to question whether you are able to manage your emotions effectively.
Be intentional with your emotions
One question that I often ask people is “how do you want to feel in the workplace in order to be successful?”
As part of this conversation, I encourage people to think of the positive emotions they want to experience and understand the ones that they wouldn’t want to feel (but may nonetheless experience). There are two reasons for doing this exercise: it helps individuals build awareness of themselves (what they want or do not want to feel) and it puts them in the driving seat. This leads to the following questions: “How do I create the environment that will help me (not) experience these emotions? How do I manage relationships with my peers and superiors to help me experience, or avoid experiencing, these emotions?”
Clarifying what we feel is extremely helpful. This understanding brings clarity, enhances emotional intelligence and awareness, reduces conflict and strengthens collaboration. Understanding our emotions helps us better understand ourselves and how we behave, as well as the impact our emotions and behaviours have on others. In turn, this knowledge can influence personal motivation and support the creation of empowered workplaces, while also driving high performance and sustainable success.
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