Recently, I have counseled more than my fair share of friends who have felt ashamed or ridiculous for having shown emotion in the workplace. Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who loves to smash furniture when I receive a snotty e-mail, but there is a lot to be said for acknowledging the fact that I'm peeved. The problem is, we currently live in such a forcefully positive world, that honest is emotion is all too often mistaken for complaining and negativity.
In my own vain attempt to feel like I can fix any of this, I've come up with a list of reasons why showing emotion at work is not something that should be frowned upon; but something be embraced, listened to, and understood. And I mean really understood, not just "work jargon" understood; we are all humans after all.
Articulating your emotions is sign of great intelligence.
Daniel Goleman is an author who has written widely about the fact that showing that you have emotional intelligence is far more important than, for instance, IQ. To understand the abstract concept of emotion is a feat in itself, but then to apply this to what we feel in the current moment is something that very few people can do. Once we are able to articulate what we feel, we are more likely to process those feelings in a positive and productive way. So look out for the person who insinuates that emotion equals madness; the reality is quite the opposite.
Staff teams are more inclined to stick together, and at their jobs.
We are all too often told how to be professional, how to follow certain systems, how to complete processes. How often are we told to sit and have a chat? To really get to know our colleagues, which will lead to us checking how they are feeling on a day to day basis. I don't suggest here that we become one another's therapists, but offering a friendly ear/shoulder/look can often be the thing that will turn a horrific day into an OK one. That doesn't even rely on whether or not we like our colleague, you can listen to how a person feels without wanting to skip down the street with them.
Encouraging talk around emotion promotes better mental health.
We all know the stereotype of the person who gets up in the dark and grey morning, drags themselves out of the house they can just about afford, into the job that eats up their life. On entering that job, they mention to a colleague that they feel upset. That colleague talks to management. The management discusses that said sad person needs to buck up their ideas, stop complaining, and have a more positive outlook. Wonderful. And what exactly have we achieved here? We have achieved the fact that this person will no longer feel at ease confiding in their colleagues, let alone feeling that they can trust and rely on the management team. This could lead to any number of mental health issues; anxiety, depression and stress, to name but a few. If this person had had the opportunity to talk frankly without fear of judgement and stigma, things could go in a very different direction.
We are all equal human beings, and talking about emotion reflects this.
Hierarchy structures have been around for centuries, and will continue to be around as long as the human race exists. This does not, however, mean that any one person does not a) wipe their own bottom (please pardon the fact that there are exceptions to this that I fully acknowledge and understand), and b) feel a range of emotions. So let's all accept this fact, rather than talking down to people, or shouting at people to make ourselves feel better. No. Unacceptable behavior above the age of eighteen. If we feel that we are struggling, if we feel teary, or even overwhelmed with happiness; we should have the right to express this. We should not be made to feel that this is unnatural, ridiculous, or something to be ashamed of in any way.
Emotion is not something you are in control of.
Sure, you can stop yourself crying if you really, really need to, but that doesn't mean that you haven't felt that awful sadness causing you to cry; it just means you have suffocated the physical release your body has given that emotion. There must be a reason that we were invented to have water come out of our eyes when we are sad, so why not just respect that process rather than attempting to stifle it?
So there you have it; jobs are something that we spend a vast majority of our life doing; so why not make it a healthy and productive place to be? Why not make people feel comfortable and happy rather than worried about feeling something that we cannot control. I know I sound like a raging hippie when I say this, but we all just need to be a bit kinder to one another, and take the time to listen.