Emotions in the Workplace?

One of the most difficult tasks for a manager is dealing with emotions in the workplace. Partly because the organization as a whole, would like to keep emotions, especially negative ones, out of the workplace. I have worked for managers, VP level folks, that would have us all check our emotions (negative ones) at the door, before we walk in. Just not feasible. We all are feeling people. Whatever you see, hear or touch usually gets a reaction or emotion from you. Good or bad emotions – they all happen. A little story telling now. I happened to be in a senior level meeting, when we were discussing morale within the departments. Many of the works that came out were fear, frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction were used. The VP stopped the discussion and told us, “enough about these emotions, I don’t want to hear about them. You need to get morale up. That is your job, make it happen.” I am not one to sit and not say anything. I lightheartedly said, “Beatings will continue to morale goes up.” Some laughed, others sat quietly. I quickly pointed out that we (the leadership team) needed to validate their emotions. We needed to understand what was at the root of the emotion, rather than ignore them. VP looked at me with anger. I quickly added, that I probably sparked an emotion with those statements. Before you punish, let’s think… Defused situation (I just knew, I was going to get killed).  Emotions are there…

How do you as a manager deal with them? As a manager, at least a good manager, you have to be able to see, hear and help. How do you set this up for your people?

  • You need to develop an open, trusting environment. People have to have the ability to speak freely. With no fear of reprimand. Start with the individuals on the team first, then make sure you take it to the complete team. Start small, then go big.
  • Know you people. Think of the fear emotions… Some folks can deal with it themselves, they “fear” they may fail and they buckle down and do whatever is necessary. Others may shutdown. Recognize what works for each person and get to moving forward quickly.
  • Push through the uncomfortable. Sometimes dealing with emotions can be uncomfortable. It happens. You as the manager need to make sure that you deal with the situation as early as possible to lessen the effect long term. Role play that discuss with a mentor, be honest and push through – you will be surprised at the end of it.
  • Be real and yourself. Slow down.. The first thing that most people do is react. Slow down and think it through first. I know this is a broken record when it comes to be a manager. You have to set the example for your team. All eyes are watching you all the time. Make sure that you are being real. If you are having one of those days (like your folks), acknowledge it with them. Maybe they will have some insight for you! Last time I checked, you managers are people too.
  • Ask others if they are feeling the same way. When in the team setting, go ahead and ask for additional information. Some folks are more vocal than others and sometimes we think it is just them. If you ask, you maybe surprised to see that more folks are in the same boat. Just afraid to speak up first. Once on the table, it can be worked.

Don’t think that emotions are not going to play in your teams. Be ready, be prepared and don’t be afraid. The sooner you confront, acknowledge and validate, the quicker moving forward can happen. All negative emotions can true to a positive, if handled properly. Same is true for positive emotions (passion). If you play that one up too much on your “rising star” – the rest of the team will be deflated or be negative toward that person. This is a very tricky subject, probably why that VP wanted nothing to do with it. You have to deal with it…