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Do emotions belong at work?

Many corporate environments would have us believe that emotions do not belong at work. We have been well trained to suppress any resemblance of an emotion, pushing them below the surface. 

We hide them in an attempt to stay in control, look strong, and keep things at arm’s length. We have been conditioned to see emotion as a weakness or something to be ashamed of. 

But in reality – our lack of emotion is holding us back. 

Emotions are critical to everything we do as a leader: build trust, strengthen relationships, develop bold strategies, focus energy, engage the team, make tough decisions, and inspire action. Without genuine emotion these things always fall flat and stall. 

A genuine display of emotion stands out. We notice it for its authenticity and vulnerability and it compels us to connect. Sometimes it’s messy and can leave us feeling a little uncomfortable but it’s powerful and creates an impression. 

If you’ve ever been in a room with a senior exec who has shed a tear while speaking about something that truly matters to them, you know what I mean. 

Showing appropriate emotion builds trust and loyalty. 

One CEO I’ve worked is charismatic, engaged and light hearted day by day, but when he is truly annoyed or disappointed, he will let his team know. He doesn’t leave any room for doubt about how he feels. His response is measured, authentic and drives action from his team. 

But don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to say that excessive emotion that flies carelessly throughout the office can also be detrimental. It can feel chaotic and leave us wanting to duck for cover. 

So how do you find the happy medium? 

Self-awareness is the answer. Being aware of how you are feeling is important. 

‘What emotions do you feel on a regular basis at work?’

If you struggle to find the answer to this question, it’s clearly been a long time since you have acknowledged your feelings. You’ve buried them so deep that they can no longer be easily accessed.  Perhaps now is the time to dig deep, tap in and reconnect with your emotions. 

3 simple ways to reconnect with your emotions

1. Introduce mindfulness.

This might include breathing exercises, guided meditation or even a quiet walk where you are totally present. Through a regular practice of mindfulness we become more aware of how we respond to our day to day work and life and we learn to become an observer of our thoughts, emotions and our habitual reactions. 

2. Listen to your body. 

Our body provides us clues! Listen to the aches and pains. Notice the recurring colds and flus. Be aware when being a bit tired slips into exhaustion. Our mind and body are inexplicably connected. When we are stressed, tired, angry, frustrated – it will show up in our body.  

The pain and dis-ease is there to remind us to attend to our feelings and emotions not just ignore themBurying emotions deep within is fruitless.  Left unattended, they will wreak havoc on our overall wellbeing. 

3. Let down your guard. 

It takes vulnerability and openness to be in tune with our emotions. If you want to be known as a genuine, authentic leader who cares… it will require you to let down your guard. It’s only through this personal inner work and courage to be truly seen for who you are, that your effectiveness as a leader will be fully realised. 

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