In my work I speak a lot about how emotions can effect performance; that of an individual, a team and an organization. What is interesting is the reaction I get when I bring up the topic of emotions - many seem to link the word to tears or outbursts, something to be embarrassed about or avoid as much as possible. While obvious examples, tears and angry words are not the most prevalent emotions in workplaces today. The emotions to be cognizant of are the ones that we carry with us all the time. Humans process much of their world through emotions, consciously and unconsciously we are checking to understand how things make us feel. It’s not possible to “park” emotions while we are at work and we cannot pretend we don’t have any - they are ever-present, like our own personal atmosphere.
To look at this another way, consider the example of a professional who took a role in an organization that met her professional skill set and objectives, but none of her personal needs. She was not a good fit for this organizations’ corporate culture and she knew it, but she felt she could adjust over time and was excited about what the organization did for their clients. Two out of three isn’t bad, right? It’s something that many of us have had to consider (and may have even done) in our own careers. The problem is (to paraphrase Susan Scott in her book Fierce Conversations) if you are an “orange” in a group of “lemons” you can present yourself as a lemon, but when the pressure is on and you get “squeezed” (stressed, etc.) you are going to leak orange juice. Your natural being is going to come out and it may become apparent that you are not in the best role (for yourself or the organization).
Emotions play a big role in how we handle ourselves, both in positive situations and negative ones; we are using them throughout our day to help us make decisions, to react and respond to our environment and to other people. It’s easy to point to overt emotions, crying, laughter, etc. but it’s also important to understand what role your emotional undercurrent plays, not just in terms of how you think or feel at any given point in time but the less tangible aspects of emotion, looking at why we think or feel a certain way and seeing patterns. Self-examination and awareness can give anyone an edge on managing the way they interact with their world (professionally and personally); but it’s not about changing who you are. It’s about understanding how you like to operate and finding ways to leverage your strengths. This is possible when you choose to look at how emotions play a part in your daily life because the good news is you can make small adjustments that result in positive changes.
There are tools to help you assess how emotions are working for you and where opportunities exist to make small changes that will increase your effectiveness and well being. Reading about emotional intelligence is one way, emotional intelligence assessment and coaching are another. Giving yourself the tools to be able to make incrementally positive changes can have a constructive impact on your professional and personal life, ensuring you’ll never find yourself leaking orange juice in a room full of lemons.