Expressing Emotions in the Workplace

The ability to effectively express emotions is a desirable skill in today’s workplace. Communicating openly and concisely leaves little space for misunderstanding and presents opportunity for ripe creativity and productivity.

Recent studies show that organisations that fail to promote an environment where employees can openly express emotions, are hindering their employee’s productivity, creativity and performance. This negligence is in turn costing the organisation. The time of “the workplace is no place for expressing emotions” is gone by the way side, replaced with acceptance that suppressing emotions does not lessen the problem, rather leaving it fester until it eventually comes out in ways that will negatively affect performance, productivity and relationships.

A study conducted by the Robert H. Smith School of Business, assessed teams from a range of sectors and found that organisations that practiced a culture which encouraged its employees to express their emotions scored higher in relationship performance, productivity, creativity and reliability compared with those organisations that omitted this soft skill in practice. The study also found that leaders and managers played a significant role in embedding this culture.

Developing a work environment where people can express their emotions freely and constructively isn’t easy. Especially considering that it is human nature to do just the opposite and avoid emotionally charged conflicts. As mentioned in a previous blog, managing disputes between employees and addressing performance issues is a manager’s least favourite task.

Implementing this culture of expressing emotions in conversation must begin with management. By investing in the upskilling of management teams on how to properly and effectively express emotions in the workplace, you create a model for employees to follow.

The benefits of upskilling your ability to constructively express emotions are:

It nips the problem at the bud
Having an emotionally expressive conversation with an employee or a manager is far preferable to letting it fester and turn into a negative emotionally charged conflict. By expressing feelings in the workplace in a timely, effective, and work-appropriate manner can help you identify and resolve conflicts while they are still manageable.

Increases empathy
Empathy drives connection. By expressing your feelings, in a work appropriate way, you can raise the amount of empathy that your employees feel for you by making it easier for them to understand why you feel that way. Communicating emotions to colleagues can improve both communication to and from employees and management, and it can also help build stronger relationships between team members.

Invites understanding
Employees who understand why decisions are being made are much more likely to agree with and respect those decisions. Walking your employees through not just the rational, but the emotional reasons behind a decision can go a long way to bringing them on board with that decision.

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If you can not do it, you can not improve it: The cost of unproductive conflict

Conflict is recognised as an inevitable aspect of every workplace, yet the impact it has on the workplace is measured. As conflict is not systematically measured like absenteeism, sick leave, performance etc., the impact it has on the organizational productivity and bottom line is often overlooked or underestimated.

Over the past 15 years‘, numerous studies have been conducted that measure the impact of functional and dysfunctional conflict on the personnel, the team and the organization. 65% of performance problems. 30% of their time managing conflict and doing so.

Notably, not all conflict is unproductive. Effectively managed conflict encourages; creating solutions, clarification and perspective taking. According to Daniel Dana, unmanaged employee conflict is perhaps the largest reducible cost in organizations today- and probably the least recognised „. In his study on the Financial Cost of Conflict he measures eight conflict costs did affect the organizations productivity:

Wasted time
Reduced decision quality
Loss of skilled employees
sabotage / theft / damage
Lowered job motivation
Lost worktime
Health costs 

Remarkably, time wasted by the person (s) affected by unproductive or poorly handled conflict accounts for over 50% of lost productivity time. Examples of ‚time wasted‘ include; absenteeism, worrying about the conflict, avoiding the other person, complaining to other colleagues. Using Dana’s online ‚calculator‘ tool clients can quantify the cost of unproductive time spent on their organization.

The Online Conflict Cost Calculator is the Online Conflict Cost Calculator . Developed by Oliver Ahern and a team of experts in Stuttgart, this tool successfully measures the impact of conflict and gives a breakdown of its costs.

Both Dana and Ahern’s online tools can be used to improve organizational training and management systems. Firstly to identify the benchmark and get a snapshot of existing conflicts and again during or after the change and impact. We encourage our clients to implement these conflict assessments into existing HR systems.

If you can not do it, you can not improve it.

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Managing Conflict with a Colleague

“I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about them that really pushes my buttons…”.
This is not an uncommon feeling for employees or team members. The workplace can be a unique environment filled with diverse people, energies and behaviours. If you are fortunate you can tolerate these differences, to a point, or you have the flexibility to ensure minimal contact with him or her on a daily basis.

This feeling of unrest with certain colleagues seems to resonates with numerous people in the workplace, yet so many employees simply choose to accept it as a part of working life. Avoiding or leaving your indifferences to fester does not resolve the differences, rather it just delays the conflict or results in an alternative action to be taken.

Here are five ways that can help you constructively prevent or deescalate any conflict with a colleague:

Reach Out – Confronting problems can be painful. To willingly confront an issue early, before we are forced to confront it by circumstances, means to put aside something pleasant or less painful for something more painful.

Be Self-Aware – Recognise your hot buttons (ie the behaviour or actions or inactions of another that frustrates you). When you are aware of what triggers you, you can modify your initial thoughts or reaction to a controlled response.

Take Perspective – Is he / she aware that their behaviour is affecting you and your productivity? Is there a reason why they are doing it? Can it be easily changed once communicated?

Communicate the problem by constructively expressing your thoughts and emotions – Choose your words carefully, be specific, clarify and solicit their understanding.

Create solutions – Treat the issue as a puzzle that two sides are working together to solve.

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4 Schritte, um Ärger auszudrücken

Ärger ist unvermeidbar und damit Teil unseres Lebens, den es gilt zu akzeptieren und anzuerkennen. Jedoch haben wir die Wahl, wie wir damit umgehen, konstruktiv oder destruktiv.

Hier eine Schritt für Schritt Anleitung, um Ärger und Wut vollständig auszudrücken um damit für ein g`scheiteres Miteinander zu sorgen.

1. Tief durchatmen!

Zunächst empfiehlt es sich nicht den ersten Handlungsimpulsen zu folgen und einfach kurz inne zu halten. Da diese Reaktion meist zu Beschuldigungen, Beschimpfungen oder Bestrafungen führen, was ein gelingendes Miteinander nicht gerade fördert.

2. Herausfinden, welche Gedanken uns überhaupt so wütend machen

Was genau hat mich so wütend gemacht? Welche Äußerungen habe ich vernommen? Welche Schlüsse habe ich daraus gezogen? z.B.: „Es ist nicht fair, sich so zu verhalten. Diese Person ist vollkommen unstrukturiert.“ Dabei handelt es sich um Urteile, die es zu identifizieren gilt.

3. Die eigenen Bedürfnisse erkennen

Hinter jeden dieser Urteile steckt jedoch ein unerfülltes Bedürfnis, das nun in diesem Schritt näher beleuchtet werden soll. Der verurteilende Gedanke „Diese Person ist vollkommen unstrukturiert.“ Lässt vielleicht darauf schließen, dass ich das Bedürfnis nach Ordnung, Effizienz oder Zuverlässigkeit habe.

4. Unsere Gefühle und erfüllten Bedürfnisse aussprechen

Der letzte Schritt benötigt eine große Portion Mut und mag für viele etwas ganz Neues sein. Nämlich unseren Ärger zu artikulieren und zwar in Form von Gefühlen und unerfüllten Bedürfnissen. Denn es ist, um bei unserem Beispiel zu bleiben, für einige vermutlich einfacher zu sagen „Du bist völlig unstrukturiert!“. Diese Aussage wird jedoch den Kern des Problems nicht lösen und mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit zu einer Verstrickung von Anschuldigungen führen. Um unsere Gefühle und Bedürfnisse anzusprechen können wir z.B. auch folgendes sagen: „Ich habe Beobachtet, dass du seit zwei Wochen unsere gemeinsame Ablage nicht mehr, wie vereinbart gepflegt hast, weshalb ich wichtige Dokumente nicht mehr finden konnte. Das macht mich wütend, da ich mir für meine Arbeit Zuverlässigkeit und Effizienz wünsche. Wie geht es dir dabei, wenn du das von mir hörst?“

Viel Erfolg dabei, probieren Sie es einfach aus!