There seems to be a well-perpetuated myth that when you enter the office, you should leave your feelings at the door. Work is not a place where you can have emotions. Instead, it is a place where you are expected to be productive and efficient. Being emotional is seemingly contrary to those end goals.
To me, a work environment should not be a hindrance to mental health. Instead, I view it as an important place to have conversations around emotional well-being. After all, most of us spend the majority of our time working. And according to the CDC, poor mental health and stress can negatively impact:
• Job performance and productivity
• Engagement with work
• Communication with co-workers
• Physical capability and daily functioning
As the founder of a company, I can say that intense emotions are what set me down the path of opening my own studio. So, limiting the ability of my team to have their feelings seems a bit counterintuitive and doesn’t allow for a very fundamental part of the business to shine through.
When emotions, such as passion and even frustration, are wrapped up in the work, the end result is stellar because time, care and attention are paid to either solving problems or embracing and elevating ideas.
Being a founder is a deeply personal experience. We are complex and emotional beings, and that is why we cannot divorce our feelings from the place where we spend most of our waking hours.
So, how do we — as employers and employees — deal with feelings that could arise in a productive and nurturing way?
1. Communicate feelings, and encourage feedback
As an employee, if you are having an issue at work, or in your personal life, don’t hide it, push it down or tell yourself you are wrong. Talk about it with your supervisor. Odds are, the company will create space for you to have your needs met, whether it is in the long term or the short term.
As a business leader, encourage people to give you feedback. This makes people feel that you are open to communication and are there to support them. When an employee has an evaluation, ask them if they have any feedback for you. Approach them with humility and as an equal member of the team.
Let them know that they don’t have to tell you immediately or at all. Give them time and space to think about it, and let them know it is safe to tell you what they feel – there will be no repercussions, only solutions to perceived issues.
2. Pay attention to employee happiness
Your well-being matters to your employer. Remember, you are important! Business leaders want to make sure they are facilitating a positive workplace environment for retention, recruitment and top-notch quality of work. Happy people do their best work.
As a business leader, pay close attention to the work your employees are doing. If their attention to detail is slipping, if it’s taking them longer to execute tasks that once took less time, or if they are less talkative than usual, check in with them, and ask them what is going on in a nonjudgmental, compassionate way. Let them know that the entire team is there for them if they need to talk, and encourage them to share with others so they can get support from their peers as well as their superiors.
3. Create/hold space for others
As an employer, and even a teammate, if someone comes in to work one day with a personal issue, give them space to cry, take a walk or cool off, as well as the opportunity to talk about it. They may need to go home and take the day off.
Personal issues can be very distracting and difficult to work through. If people are encouraged to take space, whether that includes you witnessing their pain or not, they can do the emotional work they need and come back to the office feeling like they are in a positive and caring environment.
In an article published by the Chopra Center, Vedic educator Adam Brady outlines how to hold and create space for others in order to be present and protective of their needs. Creating and holding this space for others is done in a multitude of ways, including:
• Creating a sense of safety.
• Suspending your own self-importance/ego.
• Giving people your full attention when they share with you.
• Being accepting of what people have to say and making them feel that they are allowed to express themselves.
• Being nonjudgmental and only offering advice if you have truly been in their position.
• Witnessing and observing – sometimes just the act of being present for someone is enough to make a huge impact.
I find that when I express my own feelings to my team, whether that feeling is sadness, frustration, excitement to be in the office or gratitude for all of their hard work, it makes them feel more open as well.
Let’s create a movement to destigmatize having emotions in the workplace. If we don’t make room for our feelings, our work will ultimately suffer along with us.