In my career, I’ve heard people say “There’s no room for emotion at work” and I have always disagreed. Emotion make us human. I believe everything a human does is because of how we think it will make us feel. We get to feel joy and sadness. Driven and frustrated. Motivated and depleted. Energized and exhausted. Happy and sad. Good and bad. I want you to be open to feeling all of it. Even at work.

What’s important, and what can impact your career either positively or negatively, is how you handle your emotion. We get into trouble when we let our automatic brains take over and resist emotion, react to it or avoid it altogether.

What we need to be doing is allowing all our emotions. Intentionally feel them all the way through and consider what they are trying to tell us. To help you understand what I mean,

         lets talk about onions.

While making dinner, I sliced into onions and my eyes started to sting and tear. I didn’t like it and felt annoyed. I thought about what to do with this feeling. Here’s what each of my options might look like.

Avoid. I step away from the onions. I grab a glass of wine and sip it until my eyes feel better. I chop a little more. Then step away again. I pretend the onions shouldn’t hurt. I get another glass of wine. The onions stay on the cutting board. I order a pizza.

React. I say out loud. Damn it I hate cutting onions! Why do I always have to be the one to make dinner?! Stomp feet, chop aggressively. Slam the knife on the counter and wipe my eyes on my sleeve. I yell at the kids to leave the kitchen and get out of the way. I’ll be done in a minute. The onion gets chopped. The onion soup is good, but everyone is a little salty about it. (except the soup. I often forget to salt the soup)

Resist. I chop up those onions. My eyes tear up. I scrunch my nose and close my eyes. Muscles in the body tighten. I think to myself…. I am so dumb, I shouldn’t be tearing up because of dumb onions. I should be better than this. I never want to cut onions again! I’m so bad at making soup. REAL chefs don’t tear up because of onions. I’m an idiot.

Allow. When I allow, I go ahead and feel it. I’m cutting onions. My eyes start to tear up and sting and I allow it. I notice, it’s so interesting that onions make the eyes hurt. I relax, blink a few times and keep chopping. My eyes tear up and sting a bit more. Tears stream down my face. My nose runs. I close my eyes a little while. They start to feel a little better so I get back to chopping. I think. Of course this is happening. Onions always irritate my eyes. I’ll be done in a minute and they will feel better. Keep chopping. I finish the job, and eventually the feeling passes and eyes clear up.

I had soup for dinner. It had lots of onions. It was delicious. My family was happy and because I allowed the discomfort, I didn’t avoid, react or resist, my family didn’t have to deal with my grump about the onions. They told me the soup was really good, and it only took a minute for my eyes to feel better. I just had allow the discomfort and give my eyes the space and the time.

This is exactly how I want you to handle your emotions at work too. Notice them. Get curious about them. What are they trying to tell you? Do this with all of your feelings. Avoiding, reacting and resisting only increase suffering, impacts the quality of your work, and hurts your relationships. Allowing emotion lets you accept and move forward. Of course there is room for emotion at work. There has to be. We are human. The part that matters is what you do with the emotions that come up. Allow them to be there. Let yourself show up as a person that makes you proud.