A recent interview with SUGAR Cosmetics Co-founder and CEO Vineeta Singh stirred up conversations about crying at the workplace. Singh said, “Let’s normalize crying at workplace. It’s self-expression, not a “breakdown”, so please don’t “freak out”…” Discussions revolved around what’s appropriate, what’s acceptable, what’s genuine, etc. It also brought up a more pertinent question – do our workplaces encourage the expression of emotions, especially negative ones?

Why do emotions matter?

According to Forbes, Emotional Intelligence is a critical 21st-century skill, and companies with emotionally intelligent executive teams have a competitive advantage. What’s more, emotions are contagious. When you meet someone in a bad mood, you may unknowingly begin to feel upset as well. Or when you meet someone beaming, you might feel energized. As the article says, today, managers and executives must not only master their own emotions, but also craft strategies to support emotions at work. Doing so ultimately creates a more productive, supportive, and energizing work environment.

Feelings reflect needs

Strategy Business reinforces how feelings are messengers of needs. Consider how people get restless in meetings that run past the lunchtime. People turn irritable when thirsty or hungry. Meeting their basic and complex needs unlocks positive feelings and energy; neglecting needs does the opposite. By understanding the feelings-need link, organizations can better integrate business objectives and energize the workforce.

Here are some ways in which businesses can become better equipped to deal with emotions:

  • Make Emotional Intelligence a leadership competency. According to HBR emotional intelligence (EQ) sets 90% of high performers apart from peers with similar technical skills and knowledge. By acknowledging EQ as a leadership competency, organizations can better monitor, measure, and train current/future leaders in a structured manner.
  • Go high-tech to gauge emotions. The ability to recognize emotions is increasingly being built into biometric recognition product suites. Mood meter chatbots, emotion biometric scanners, apps like RULER’s Mood Meter and voice analysis tools are just some developments that help managers gauge emotions. Voice analysis tools help mental healthcare workers hear hints of illness that even a trained practitioner could miss. Other tools such as Emotion Wheels or Atlas of Emotions help us develop a vocabulary to express our feelings.
  • Set ‘feeling rules’. There are unsaid rules of what is and isn’t considered ‘appropriate’. Example – allowing time for candid/opposing views during meetings. People learn these rules by seeing how others deal with such situations. If the team feels psychologically safe to express dissent without being reprimanded, it builds a culture of trust and transparency.
  • Empathetic check-ins. Simply asking ‘How are you doing?’ and intently listening to your teams’ response can be extremely reassuring. According to Great Places to Work, this gesture is an easy gift all leaders can give their people, and it only takes a few minutes.
  • Nurture authentic leaders. Leaders who are comfortable in dealing with emotions, adept at uncovering needs, and intuitive about sensing changes in behaviour, should be encouraged to meaningfully interact with others as part of large corporate initiatives.
  • Reminding team members to practice self-care, encouraging gratitude, creating a kudos board, and practicing mindfulness can also go a long way.

The brilliant Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’ comes to mind. It creatively personified the five basic emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger, reminding the audience that the perceived negative emotion of sadness is equally, if not more important, than joy. It’s time workplaces recognize and embrace all these emotions.

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