How do you deal with emotion at work?

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.

7 thoughts on “How do you deal with emotion at work?

  1. Emotions are real and part of the workplace so we all must learn to deal with them. Thank you for sharing this in your post. Experience has shown that leaders that build trust with employees are then able to be more transparent and address those “emotional situations” in a proper manner when they arise. Building Trust is vital in a healthy organization.

  2. Pingback: How do you deal with emotion at work? | UpSearchCoach

  3. I like what Eryn Kalish and Scott Blanchard have to say. Ultimately, I think emotions have to be viewed in the same way that IT is – a tool and platform for success that is integrated into company business strategy. More in my new book “Emotional Business: Inspiring Human Connectedness to Grow Earnings and the Economy”

  4. Handling emotions at work is vital. For an employer to value emotional development is going to be key moving forward – there are 6 components to emotional intelligence which are ones to master. I wrote about these in my ebook – The 6 Secrets to Great Emotional Intelligence – For Inspirational Leaders and Managers – it can be downloaded free on my website

  5. Employment Engagement means totality when in the office. There are times when one does get emotional and there is an outburst, but then that could generally happen if one has had a series of incidents and snowballs into the outburst. Or there could be several outside events that could have caused it.. To engage an employee is to and understand the right personality of one and deal with them accordingly. thatis TRUE = Time, Reliability, Understanding Energy. all this and more could be draining and also rewarding ! Its only when one is in the midst of this all would you know how to handle it there on….. Its a differnt ball game all together.

  6. The fact that we’re discussing the “F” word as it relates to business tells me we’re moving into a more evolved state of living and working. Just as in personal relationships, when business relationships aren’t fostered and feelings aren’t addressed walls are built which keep out true connection which are key to productivity and happiness. Effective communication skills training should be on the top of the list for every company in order to foster collaboration and wellbeing for individuals and organizations.

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