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peter vajda

Many, many adults were raised in in childhoods where:

-folks never were permitted to show anger ("we don't act like that in this family!" and its various flavors)
-folks were scared by conflict and "loud" conversation
-their parents told them to be "quiet" as being too alive, juicy or otherwise "noisy" was "too much", especially for parents who were stressed, "nervous", depressed, couldn't handle mothering or fathering, or just arrived home from a hard day at work, etc.

So, for these children who are now adults at the meeting, in this case, their reactivity to "emotions" shows up all the time and their using labels such as "rational" focused" "mental","immature" etc. are just them manifesting their insecurity, resistance and defenses they have around others whom they find threatening to their sense of security, safety, comfort and stability, i.e, their own emotional immaturity they never really explored and dealt with.

Being "too loud", boisterous, excited or overly exuberant, etc. is just as threatening to them as another's being "out there", angry,etc. So, let's give those folks a label and tell them to "grow up." Hmmm, telling the whole, complete, emotionally-alive person to to "grow up." That's the pot calling the kettle something.

Interesting enough, it's not the behaviors of those who show emotions that's really, really unhealthy; rather it's the behavior of those who don't, and can't and who don't or can't permit it that needs to be explored. Perhaps, starting with asking: "Why?" Really, really, really, why?

It's not about being "retional". It's about why folks' emotions and rationality cannot exist as a "both/and" equation and way of be-ing as opposed to making it an "either/or" proposition.

Steve Roesler

Ah, Peter, I had a feeling--uh, a thought--that I could count on you for this one.

Perhaps we should do something that directly addresses the consequences of repressing emotions.

The "both/and" strikes me as the healthy and useful way to look at the issue.

Thanks, as always...

Janine Moon

Really great observations! Corporate America does expect (still) its employees to leave emotions at the door...there is little place for them in an environment created and maintained by Baby Boomers. (These comments are generalities, of course, but I continue to find them true much more often than not.)

Baby Boomers, as long as they are in control (and command, for that matter) will ignore the connection between passion and success because of the reasons Peter cited, and also because the Industrial economy needed robots, not people who brought their brains and connected selves to work. Robots are disconnected yet still productive. They are very low maintenance and require only an occasional tune up (annual review). And Boomers got to the top of the heap using Industrial economy behaviors.

The generation now in leadership grew up in the most prosperous of times and quickly grew to value "things" and accoutrements of success more than people. To now shift to workplaces that really accept emotions means placing a value on all of what it means to be human...that's a major shift in mindset that takes work and humility and acknowledgement that the name of the game is NOT a hierarchy where all knowledge flows from top down.

I suggest that a great majority of those in leadership positions enjoy the "spoils" of the "dues" they paid, and will not accept let alone encourage an environment so very different...at least as long as they are calling the shots. These leaders are not interested in the long-term viability of the organization beyond their time with it...their focus is on getting 'theirs' and getting out.

The possibility that employees' emotions will be valued exists, I think, at the smallest levels of the organization--between associates and managers and among team members who can see and value the immediate results of those who are engaged and committed to their work.

Steve Roesler

Thanks for the multiple perspectives on the issue, Janine.

Isn't it so true that the place where we can have the most impact is in the immediate work group?!

For so long, employees and many of us in the T&D world have tried to emphasize that reality.

What have you found particularly effective in getting that message heard in the right places?


Kent Blumberg

I am 100 percent of accepting and honoring every bit of each employee - the "rational" bits and the "emotional" bits. I would much rather have ten emotional, passionate and smart people in my organization than have 100 flat, controlled, dispassionate and rational people. Those ten would easily do the work of the 100, with energy to spare.

Kent Blumberg

Okay, poor grammar on my comment above. First sentence should read:

I am 100 percent for accepting and honoring every bit of each employee...

Steve Roesler

Ok, Kent, I am 100% out-of-tune with grammar errors :-)

Your comment carries a bit of extra weight, knowing your manufacturing background and the arenas in which you've managed. So I appreciate the affirmation.

Do you think we'll see a change in this in the near future?

Wally Bock

Gosh, Steve, we came up with the idea that business was supposed to be a dispassionate exercise in rational judgment, just as if human beings could leave emotion at the door.

For years I've been conducting an exercise at the beginning of supervisory skills programs. I ask participants to identify a time when "it was great to come to work." Then they tell the group about it and work up lists of characteristics of great places to work.

I'll tell you this. When people describe times when it was great to work, they describe times when it was fun and exciting. And when they talk about those times, even years later, that energy and excitement (those emotions) comes back.

If you have your people tamp down their emotions because they're at work, you're also asking them to shut off the very enthusiasm and energy that makes engagement so powerful.

Steve Roesler

Amen, Wally. I couldn't add anything more to that.

annette clancy

The discussion on emotion at work invariably centres around the notion that emotion happens "somewhere else" and that emotion is destructive - nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Organisations are emotional and emotion generating environments and most of my work concerns working with individuals and groups helping them to understand what systemic intelligence is contained in emotional situations. Very often the emotional person (aka the scapegoat) is voicing a concern on behalf of a system - i.e. they are doing a job in the system that needs to be done..How many people do you know who roll home after a day at the office talking about the activity they did today as distinct from how they felt about the activity they did. Most "irrational" behaviour in organisations is very often a conscious representation of unconscious emotional issues that are repressed because of the "rules" that suggest that emotion is not welcome...But then again, we have examples of rational only entities - they are called bureaurocies - and the individual equivalents? Sociopaths...

Thanks for raising the topic in a very engaging blog

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