Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Q. Some of my female employees tend to bring their emotions into the workplace, which I find inappropriate. They are high achievers, but I don't think their attitude in this respect does them any favours. Shouldn't people keep the lid on their emotions when they're at work?

A. There's a comforting myth that business decisions are all based on logic and objectivity. Comforting, because we are accustomed to prize these qualities. A myth, because emotions are omnipresent in the working environment, though often unacknowledged.

Of course, logic has its uses. It provides a common framework that can make arguments and decisions mutually understandable. The links in the chain are explicit and so flaws can be spotted. But none of us can thrive without recourse to emotions, positive and negative. Studies of the brain show that even simple decisions call on both sides of it, with emotional input providing a vital short cut for laborious left-brain activity.

Emotions can be useful to an organisation: aggression channelled into a drive to be the best; passion that drives a visionary leader or a painstaking employee; satisfaction that encourages us to work harder and better. Without emotion, how could any service organisation deliver anything approximating to customer care?

It is true that negative emotions can also be at play: defensiveness leading to hostility and poor co-operation, cynicism stifling creativity, for example. But far from achieving rationality, suppressing emotions can lead to a breakdown in logic. Our stiff-upper-lip training leads many people to ignore their negative feelings. This can lead to nervousness, mistrust and irrationality, and the resulting stress can have long-term consequences for our health, including stomach ulcers and cancer. Learning to express emotions in a way that doesn't impinge on others is recognised as an effective stress-buster, allowing us access to greater rationality.

Of course, there will always be people who misuse emotion: the over-aggressive man who bullies his staff; the woman who personalises everything and overdoes the drama; the person who manipulates others by exploiting their emotional responses. Such people are unaware or uncaring of how their behaviour affects others. They need some input on the negative impact of their actions. …

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