I have always disagreed when people say, “There’s no room for emotion at work.”
Emotion makes us human. Everything a human does is because of how we think it will make us feel.
We feel joy and sadness; driven and frustrated; motivated and depleted; energized and exhausted; Happy and sad; Good and bad. We need to be open to all of it, even at work.
What’s essential and what can impact your career, either positively or negatively, is how you behave when you handle your emotions.
You’ll get into trouble when you resist feeling, react to feeling, or avoid it.
The most effective way to handle emotion is to allow the emotion to be there, and get curious about what the emotion is trying to tell you. To help you understand what I mean,
Let’s talk about onions.
While making dinner, You sliced into onions, and your eyes started to sting and tear. You didn’t like it and it creates a dislike emotion. Here’s what each of your options might look like when deciding what to do with this feeling.
Avoid. Step away from the onions. Grab a glass of wine. Sip until your eyes feel better. Chop a little more. Step away again. Pretend the onions shouldn’t hurt. Get another glass of wine. Leave the onions on the cutting board. Order a pizza.
React. 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 your eyes on the sleeve. Yell at the kids to leave the kitchen and get out of the way. The onion gets chopped. Onion soup is good, but everyone is slightly salty about it. (except the soup. In your anger you forget to salt the soup)
Resist. You chop up those onions. Your eyes tear up. You scrunch your nose and close your eyes. Muscles in the body tighten. Think to yourself, “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 you allow, you feel it. You’re cutting onions. Your eyes start to tear up and sting, and you let it. You notice it’s so interesting that onions make the eyes hurt. You relax, blink a few times and keep chopping. Eyes tear up and sting a bit more. Tears stream down your face. Your nose runs. You close your eyes for a little while. They feel a little better, so you get back to chopping and think. Of course, this is happening. Onions always irritate the eyes. You know you’ll be done in a minute, and they will feel better so you keep chopping. Eventually, you finished the job, the feeling passed, and your eyes cleared up.
This is precisely how you can handle your emotions at work. You can avoid (procrastinate), react (complain), resist (Do the work done, but let stress take over), or allow them (You can let discomfort be there, learn, and keep moving).
Allowing emotions is the key to success and reducing resistance and stress. When you have emotions, I want you to notice them. Get curious about them. What are they trying to tell you? Are they asking you to adjust something? Do you need to ask for help, or renew your commitment to the task? Can you allow the discomfort to get to the other side of the activity?
Allow all of your emotions. Avoiding, reacting, and resisting will increase suffering, impact the quality of your work, and hurt your relationships. Allowing emotion lets, you accept and move forward.
Of course, there is room for emotion at work. There must be. We are human. The part that matters is what you do with the ones that come up.
Let yourself show up as a person that makes you proud.