be true“OMG!  I cannot believe my boss said I am too emotional”  One employee exclaimed.

We all experience emotional outbursts in our personal and professional lives.  However, in the workplace, once we hear the word ’emotions’ we automatically start thinking drama, stress, anger, and hostility!  Therefore, there is no tolerance for display what we call negative emotions in the workplace.

Companies expect employees to display only positive emotions in the workplace; anything else they should check it at the door.  Employees who smile, and are agreeable are considered friendly and confident.  On the other hand, those who express disagreement, frustration, or any other emotions that do not fit into the company’s culture, get branded or stigmatized as drama queens or too emotional.

Here is the thing, when employees bottle up their emotions, they get more negative, isolate themselves, and do not produce.  Numerous studies have shown that bottled up emotions “cloud thinking, promote job unhappiness, and negatively impact work performance.”

Employees might be able to manage and control their emotions, as well as the effect that other people’s emotions have on them, but emotions belong in the workplace and should be expressed without the fear of getting labeled.

Studies show that workers spend more time in the workplace than they do anywhere else.  And triggers for emotional outbursts constantly surround them.  They share spaces with people they do not like; they get angry about their situations in their personal lives; they get disappointed when projects are canceled; they experience fears and anxieties when they do not meet quotas and goals, or about being laid off…  The list goes on. What should employees do with those emotions?

Unspoken emotions negatively affect the employee’s willingness to take risks at work, their mental health, and ultimately productivity.  Larger companies have employee assistance programs that include short-term counseling and referral services to help employees deal with emotions that might affect their performance, health, and well-being.  However, this worry of sharing emotions in the workplace can easily get out of control.  One employee said, “I do not use the F-word (the way I feel about something) to my boss anymore because then I will be branded as emotional and I will not get the challenging projects” This type of fear leads to bottled up emotions which result in destructive behaviors. These destructive behaviors are detrimental to them as well as the company’s well-being.  An invite to Monday night happy hour turns to every night until it becomes a substance abuse issue.  Alternatively, a colleague lending an ear turns into an affair, then a divorce, then depression, other substance abuse, and health problems.  In the end, employees are out on disability, workers picking up the slack are overworked, absenteeism sharply increases, and productivity drops.

Employee’s performance and engagement are direct reflections of how employees feel.  Instead of demanding workers to be less emotional at work, employers should ‘humanize’ the workplace and teach employees how to cope and self-regulate emotions that negatively affect engagement and productivity!

Someone told me a while ago that working with clashing personalities or opposing viewpoints could bring new ideas and energize discussions on aspects of a project that they could not figure out before.  Therefore, conflict is healthy, as long as it is discussed and a conclusion is reached.

I feel the same way about emotions in the workplace.  The type of emotion that is problematic is the silent one.  Because it will eventually erupt in an outburst and result in deviation from tasks and goals.  Emotions humanize the workplace.  When employees are engaged, the ‘whole person’ becomes entirely absorbed and enthusiastic about the work.  They feel emotionally connected and happy about their roles, future in the company, and willingly take decisive actions to further the company’s mission, reputation, and interests.

Emotionally aware employees know how to regulate their emotions.  They recognize their own and other people’s emotions, and use emotional information to guide the way they think and behave.  Clients will trust them because they are upfront and say it like it is.  Companies make and save money, as well as retain customers because of emotional employees.  Researchers call these type of workers emotional intelligent.

Yes, emotions belong in the workplace.  Through emotions, employees dig deep!  They just know something is off even when the logic adds up.  They do the research, find answers, but question the answers.  They might make you nervous, but with time, you will trust them because they always deliver within budget and on time.

They aim to be themselves but end up creating win-wins for all involved, leaving a refreshing taste of energy in the air.  Their best work comes from their core, the birthplace of raw emotions, where creativity, nobility, authenticity, and truth live.  They help to create a work environment known for creating emotional intelligent leaders, and build strong working teams who strategize, create, develop, and implement innovative ideas and solutions that they could not even imagine before!

So next time employers ‘feel’ the need to categorize employees as too emotional, stop and see the greatness they are about to birth, and help them communicate their thoughts more effectively.  Do not waste energy thinking about the dehumanizing attitudes and behaviors that negative emotions could cost the company.

Instead, employers should focus on ways to safeguard the workplace against workplace deviance and negative emotions by implementing organizational practices, social processes, and design tasks to increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions.  Which will ultimately increase favorable outcomes including engagement, achievement, job enrichment, and a happier work environment.

By Nicola Chambers-Holder

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