Scott Blanchard, principal and executive vice president at The Ken Blanchard Companies calls it the new “F” word—feelings. And it is something that managers and organizations struggle with on a regular basis. Should you ask people to repress feelings and “check them at the door” or should you encourage people to bring their entire selves when they come to work?
Current research points to the benefit of employing people’s hearts as well as their hands. But to do that skillfully, managers and team leaders have to be prepared for all of the situations that occur when you truly engage people. If you want everything that people can offer, you have to deal with everything that people will bring.
Eryn Kalish, a professional mediator and relationship expert believes that there are two keys to successfully negotiating the emotional workplace. In an article for Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter, Kalish identifies staying centered and open as the key skills. But what she has been seeing more commonly is an unbalanced approach where managers and organizations go to extremes.
As she explains, “Organizations are either taking a ‘confront everything, address it, and do it now’ overly intense approach, where there is no time or space to reflect, or they are taking a ‘let’s wait and see’ tactic, in hopes that the situation resolves itself, but in reality not dealing with difficult issues until it’s way too late.”
The wait and see strategy works occasionally, according to Kalish, although most of the time things get worse. “Plus, when something is left unaddressed, there is a cumulative organizational effect where everyone starts shutting down, living in a place of fear and contraction.”
That is a huge loss, from Kalish’s perspective, because most issues in companies are resolvable.
“If issues are handled directly, clearly, and in a timely manner, something new can emerge. That’s what I see that is so exciting,” she shares. “When people normalize these types of conversations, it is amazing to see the transformations that can occur.”
Next steps for leaders
For leaders looking to get started in improving their abilities, Kalish recommends assessing where you are currently at.
“It all depends on whether you have the skills to conduct a sensitive conversation. If you have the skills, take a cue from Nike and ‘Just do it!’ See what happens. If you do not have the skills, then it is important to get additional coaching or training.
“In any case, openness and transparency is the key. Many times it helps to just be candid with staff and saying, ‘I think that we have been avoiding this and I’d like that to change’ will help.
To learn more about Kalish’s thoughts on dealing effectively with emotion in the workplace, check out Dealing effectively with emotion-filled work environments in the August issue of Ignite. Also be sure to check out a free webinar Kalish is conducting on August 22, A Manager’s Guide to the Emotional Workplace: How to stay focused and balanced when dealing with sensitive issues. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.