Make us your home page
Working | Environment

Emotions not a no-no in workplace anymore

Unfortunately, my workplace is like everyone else's: made of bland, inedible materials and filled with people who have different tastes, personalities and emotions.

Yes, I said "emotions." Turns out those are allowed in the workplace these days. There's even a buzzword, "emotional intelligence," that's all the rage in workplace guru circles.

In brief, the growing interest in emotional intelligence stems from a slow-but-steady recognition that the people who inhabit office spaces are, in fact, human beings.

A person who is emotionally intelligent can recognize and understand his or her own reactions to workplace events, while also recognizing, understanding and appreciating the responses of others.

For too long, emotions have been unwelcome at work. We had a job to do, darn it, and we weren't going to let silly things like feelings get in the way. So we stifled tears, anger (sometimes) and even passion, lest we risk seeming unhinged.

"The truth is you can't even decide what you want for lunch without involving your emotions," said Anne Kreamer, author of It's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace. "We've all been acculturated to believe that the only appropriate behavior in the workplace is one that does not acknowledge that we're all human beings. And that's just not true."

Enhancing emotional intelligence in the workplace has two pragmatic benefits.

The individual who can understand what sets him off or charges her up or what drives him nuts can harness those emotions, control them when need be and use them to better ends. And being able to read and react appropriately to the emotions of others makes a manager more effective and builds camaraderie among workers and stronger client connections.

It sounds strategic, but being emotionally smart will get you places.

For a company, fostering emotional intelligence leads to better collaboration and creates a happier, more productive operation.

In her book, Kreamer writes: "The goal of any person or organization should be to allow emotion at work, in all of its gendered nuances, its due — but not to excess. Again, as with most of life, it's a 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' calibration question — you want not too soft or too hard, not too cold or too hot, but the elusive 'just right.' (My) strong sense is that very few workplaces have their emotional temperatures set anything close to just right."

That might be why emotional intelligence remains a concept that has yet to catch on.

Louise Altman, co-founder of Intentional Communication Consultants, said: "I think it's still viewed as slightly suspect in the average workplace. I'm kind of astonished on a regular basis at how little people really understand about human dynamics in the workplace."

Altman's husband, George, also co-founder of the company, added: "Sometimes when you talk about emotional intelligence, people want to start hanging garlic around their necks because they think it has to do with psychology or therapy. But it's really just about greater self-awareness."

The Altmans said a good way to start building your emotional intelligence is to slow down and think about how you're feeling during different parts of the workday. Try to observe the emotions of those around you as well.

"When you're in a meeting and you're presenting your case, how aware are you of how you're feeling, why you're doing what you're doing and the impact what you're saying is having on others?" Louise Altman said. "Nonverbal cues are coming all the time. Are you taking those cues in? Are you modifying your behavior? Perhaps you can gauge whether you've reached a good time to stop talking and ask a question or two."

"If you see someone crying in the workplace," Kreamer said, "go up and have a conversation about it in a way that doesn't make them feel ashamed. Find out what's wrong. If you see some abusive behavior going on at your office, go up to the person who did it and say, 'What was going on there?' We need to not be afraid to acknowledge that these emotions are there and to try to discuss them."

Somewhere along the line, we decided the way we interact in a work environment should be quite different than the way we interact with friends and family. That's as it should be, up to a point. But it overlooks the fact that we don't become robots when we walk through the office door.

We remain human beings throughout the day. Fleshy, warm-blooded, emotional.

Emotions not a no-no in workplace anymore 01/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 2:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home


    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]