Many of us know first-hand that work environments can spark a whole array of emotions: stress over approaching deadlines, maybe a sprinkle of anger with a hovering manager, a couple of good laughs with a co-worker over lunch, perhaps feelings of joy and contentment when that pitch you’ve been working on goes well. While some of these feelings may be seen as more socially acceptable than others, we are here to tell you that, in fact, all of them are okay and necessary.
In a world that often prioritizes productivity and efficiency, discussing emotions at work, especially negative ones, can feel like a taboo subject. Many employees might feel the need to suppress their emotions, putting on a façade of stoicism to fit into the expected mold of the “professional” worker. However, this emotional suppression can be detrimental to both individual well-being and overall workplace culture, while emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.
It’s time to break down these barriers and have an open conversation about the importance of emotions in the professional setting – and how we can take the steps to bring emotions into the workplace.
Emotions Humanize the Workplace
Let’s face it: we are not robots. Emotions are an inherent part of being human, and they play a significant role in how we interact with others and experience the world around us. When we allow ourselves to express and acknowledge our emotions at work, it humanizes the workplace, creating a more authentic and empathetic environment. Genuine connections form when we can relate to one another on an emotional level, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support, as well as increasing overall well-being at work.
- Whether you’re a manager or employee, it is important to know how to identify and communicate your needs: building emotional intelligence is the first step to bringing emotions into the workplace. Tools like emotional wheels can be great in pinpointing and recognizing difficult emotions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for resources and training to tune into your team’s emotions: it will pay off in the long run.
- Create a culture of appreciation and recognition, where employees are encouraged to celebrate both professional and personal milestones: make time and space for self-expression and make sure that everyone feels safe to communicate their emotions and needs.
Emotional Release and Stress Reduction
Work-related stress is common for many individuals (trust us, we’ve known it first-hand!). Allowing ourselves to express emotions, such as frustration or anxiety, can serve as a healthy release. Bottling up emotions can lead to increased stress levels, impacting both mental and physical health. By acknowledging and addressing our emotions, we can prevent burnout and maintain a healthier work-life balance. This also means being able to set boundaries and manage your workload in a way that doesn’t cause additional pressure. According to a 2019 study, “efforts to improve employees’ EI level will effectively slow down or eliminate employees’ job burnout” – being emotionally aware really does go a long way.
- Respecting off-time and encouraging clear schedules are key: leading by example does work best 😉
- Promote healthy habits such as taking breaks, mindfulness practices, and physical exercise
- Provide opportunities for emotional expression to prevent bottling them up: whether it’s through regular check-ins with managers or team-building activities, creating spaces where employees can share their emotions can foster a sense of community and lower the pressures of perfect performance.
Navigating Emotions Professionally
While embracing emotions is important, it’s equally crucial to navigate them professionally. This means finding a balance between expressing emotions authentically and maintaining a safe environment for others. Expressing emotions should be done with empathy and consideration, ensuring that everyone feels respected and understood.
- When confronted with difficult emotions, it is important to respond, and not react: take the time to accept your feelings and make sure to talk about how you feel about a certain action, instead of focussing on the person performing the action.
- Express your needs (if you feel inclined to do so) and offer solutions: be precise and provide clear details about what you require. Avoid vague statements and instead focus on specific actions or resources that would address your needs.
- Effective communication is a two-way process: it involves not only expressing your needs but also actively listening to others.
Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment
To foster a workplace where emotions are valued and understood, managers and leaders must set the tone. Encourage open communication and demonstrate empathy towards your team members, or demand proper support from your managers. Organizing workshops or training sessions on emotional intelligence can be useful in equipping employees with the tools to manage their emotions effectively. When we feel safe to express ourselves, we are more likely to contribute our best ideas and engage in problem-solving collaboratively – this, additionally, requires being aware of various diversity dimensions and accommodating to them. In fact, organizations with a diverse and inclusive culture report 22% lower turnover rates, as well as 27% higher profitability.
- Accepting and validating emotions is an important part of fostering a safer emotional space: be respectful when listening and open when sharing.
- Adapting a system of regular check-ins is a good way to discuss progress, concerns, and emotions. Creating a space for open dialogue ensures that employees feel heard and supported in their professional journey.
- Encourage positive emotions through practices like giving kudos or highlighting efforts and achievements.
Hopefully, your work life doesn’t actually come to crying at a meeting – the tips above can help avoid that. Emotions are a natural part of the human experience, and they should be embraced, not hidden away. By acknowledging the significance of emotions in the workplace and developing emotional intelligence, we can create a more compassionate and supportive environment for everyone. So, let’s start talking about emotions at work, destigmatizing the expression of feelings, and building a healthier, more connected professional community. Remember, it’s okay to feel, and it’s okay to let those feelings show.