Allow emotions into the workplace

By Dr Peter Chew, Specialist in behaviour

This is the fourth article in a six-part series about understanding EQ and making it work for you

Business performance will benefit from a new perspective

Most people would admit to having some form of split personality. They have a home self and a work self and the behaviour of the two can be very different. The former usually expresses all emotions readily, communicates openly and is prepared to talk about the details of what is going in the workplace. The latter, in contrast, is far more reticent. Those feelings are kept private, or revealed cautiously to just a trusted few, and genuine opinions about the company, customers and even everyday problems are rarely disclosed.

However, welcoming emotions into the workplace is critical to the future success of our organisations and, in that, EQ plays an important role. In discussions on how things are changing, we can see that companies generally focus on aspects like the latest production figures or market share. What they overlook is the radical shifts also taking place in the way employees interact socially and interpersonally. These profound changes, though, must be addressed and understood, and that means dealing with deeper thoughts and emotions.

In order to make progress, we must learn how to take down the walls that separate us in the workplace. Advances depend on achieving levels of collaboration and teamwork that we may never have dreamed possible. In practical terms, it makes little difference how large or small an organisation is, the same principles for altering behaviour still apply.

New outlook
The first thing we must do is develop a new perspective and that is not as difficult as people might think. For example, managers who have attended courses about empowerment and preached its virtues to their employees should actually put it into practice. Cross-functional teams and their designated leaders should be given real authority to make decisions and not just seen as discussion groups. And, if people are being told the value of communication skills, they should also be allowed to express their views without risk of reprisal.

Such points may seem obvious, but many companies, which are leaders in technology or management theory, cannot bring themselves to tackle these "human" challenges effectively. However, the organisation that can get staff to work in close collaboration, share resources and trust each other, is one that will be best equipped to survive in the 21st century. Honest opinions and authentic feelings are untapped resources that can help us to prosper.

If managers can grasp this point, they will no longer fear creating a new community where business decisions can be questioned, employees can raise objections, and where rocking the boat is not frowned upon. By allowing ideas and feelings to come out into the open, there will be less stress, higher motivation and a better understanding of the real issues.

When something different is happening in the workplace, all of us detect it through a kind of sixth sense or inner balance. It is a survival instinct activated by our emotions, and it is there regardless of what we may have been told officially.

We know, for instance, when our star is rising, when our peers disapprove of us, when we are out of the loop, or when layoffs are coming. We become speculative, worried, anxious and alert during these times. Our emotions are warning us; that is their function.

Intuition tells
Others can pick up our feelings with their own intuitive radar. If we don't like someone or something but have never said so, these feelings are probably already well known by the people we come into contact with every day. It seems we all possess an uncanny ability to think we are hiding difficult issues when, in fact, they are being communicated all the time. Failing to acknowledge this emotional awareness can easily lead to upset stomachs, headaches or heart trouble. And, even those who do acknowledge these subtle feelings, seldom have the confidence, courage or certainty to act upon them. We must, though, learn to go against traditional thinking and find a suitable way to convey these existing emotions.

As a general reminder, it is worth setting down a few key principles:

  • Emotional needs find a way to express themselves
  • All emotions are a tool of communication
  • Feelings are not right or wrong, they just occur
  • Emotions are a gateway to better understanding
  • Emotional issues should not be ignored in any part of our lives
  • Acknowledgement of deeper feelings helps in solving problems
  • We must clarify and accept individual needs
  • We should express positive feelings and communicate negative ones.

    At present, the effectiveness of teams and of relationships between managers and employees usually hinge on how well people can "read" each other and interpret the unspoken signs. If, though, we admit that emotions form as big a part of the working world as they do of the other parts of our lives, we need not be afraid of addressing the issues they raise. Openly accepting the existence of emotional needs will be a benefit in the long run.

    In the next article, we will examine the issue of emotional intelligence in leadership.

    Founder of Best International Group of Companies, Dr Peter Chew is a psychotherapist, motivational specialist, author, lecturer, international keynote speaker, and consultant with over 20 years of vast experience. For information, please contact Peter Chew at

  • Taken from Career Times 08 October 2004
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