Emotions in the Workplace

For any of you who read this blog with any regularity, you know I am an emotional being. I’ve never felt such a deep soul connection with a celebrity as when Kristen Bell exclaimed on Ellen, “First thing you should know about me, if I’m not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying.”

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It’s true, really. I feel feelings quite intensely. It’s gotten me into some sticky situations at past jobs. I also manifest anger/frustration by crying, which is just horribly inconvenient. Nothing says, “Hey, don’t respect me at all. Just being all womanly and terrifying,” like crying at work. In male dominated workplaces, it’s rough. I just want to feel upset and hide it. So difficult.

Ugh. It drives me crazy. It doesn’t seem right that emotions are so taboo in the workplace. Of course, my perspective is skewed. I want us all to express ourselves, be aware about how we feel, and practice empathy when someone does cry at work. Unfortunately, I see the flaws in that idea from the outset. Crying at work, or really any extreme negative emotional reaction, is just seen as really taboo.

As with most things, I got into a conversation with Jesse about it. Why is emotion so frowned upon at work? What is it about being sad, mad, or passionate about something you care about that needs to be excused from day-to-day work cycles? You are expected to be passionate, but removed at the same time. That seems backwards. You have to care a lot, but not care too much. What?

First off, emotions make people uncomfortable. I mean, if you’re not my client and you start crying, I honestly have no idea what to do other than to empathize with you. Can I hug you? Should I? No. Um, do you need water? How about food? What can I do to make the awkwardness stop?!

Second, and I think more importantly, being emotional in the workplace indicates that you are too involved with emotion in your decision making process. At certain jobs, taking emotions into the equation are important, like counseling for example. At most jobs, rational decisions usually require removing emotional investment. It’s not how bad you want it but is there logically sound reasoning behind your choice?

Now, I’m not suggesting we all turn into Dr. House and just completely remove ourselves from caring completely (holy moly, I just realized I need to do a case file on him). Caring about your co-workers can be a uniting experience. Caring too much about your co-workers, your job, or anything that isn’t completely in your control can be dangerous. Take it from me… I am the queen of caring too much about my job. It’s hard in a society that encourages so much focus on job satisfaction, success, and earnings to just step back a bit and go, “Should I care about this as much as I do?”

For those of you out there who are champions of feelings, I salute you. I’m right there with you. It’s time to work on our self-awareness if we find ourselves too involved and too emotional about what we do for a living. I’m not suggesting we all shrug our shoulders and constantly reflect apathy, but I am suggesting that we keep the outbursts, tears, and large expressions of our vulnerable emotions to a minimum.

Another great reason to have an outlet like counseling. Glad I’m going back. :)

What do you all think?

Can you be emotional in the workplace and do a good job?

Related: Sheryl Sandberg says tells women it’s OK to cry at work

Feeling about Feeling.

I’m completing my Gottman Level 2 training right now. Every time I have this opportunity to sit down and get my geek/nerd learn-on, I feel so lucky. Especially because I am such a fan of the Gottman’s work and how it works in a couple’s counseling session. Something that John talks about in the L2 training, which he also talks about in the L1 training, is this idea of meta-emotion. As he describes it, which I think is a great definition, is “how we feel about feelings”.

The first time I ever heard of this concept, it seemed really abstract. How I feel about feelings? What does that even mean?

There are three types of ways one can understand how people feel about feelings:

  • Emotion Coaching
  • Emotion Dismissing
  • Emotion Disapproving

The first, emotion coaching, is the ideal emotional viewpoint. Those who are emotion coaching types, view emotions as learning opportunities. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ emotion. When there is a negative emotion (sadness, anger) it is seen as an opportunity to build intimacy.

With emotion dismissing, the thought is “get over it”. Unpleasant emotions are looked at as choices, so those who see negative emotions from this point, dismiss their partner (or child’s) negative emotions as a choice and something that can easily be overcome. If you can choose the negative emotion, you can also choose to get rid of it.

For those who are emotion disapproving, emotions are seen as extremely negative and damaging. More than just viewing emotions as a choice, they resent the person experiencing the negative emotion, viewing them as weak or needy. When there is a bid for emotional connection and understanding from a partner and the emotion is one that is not accepted or understood, the partner will leave the person to solve it on their own.

Most of the research Dr. John Gottman has done on meta-emotion has been done in regards to how we raise children and teach them about emotions. Obviously though, these behaviors bleed into our romantic relationships. If we are raised to think sadness and anger are not valid emotions, then when our partner is sad about something and they come to us looking for empathy or comfort, and we shame them for not helping themselves – we create attachment injuries and we ultimately teach our partners that we are not in their lives to help them. It’s a negative and toxic pattern. It’s one of the first things couples counselors are taught to look for in ailing relationships.

So, why am I sharing this with you?

I hope you take the opportunity to think about how you feel about emotions, especially the negative ones. If your partner comes to you feeling sad, do you look at them as weak or whiney? Do you feel their sadness is a burden on your day? Or, do you take ownership of their bid for your help and step into your role as a “we” problem solver or a “you” problem solver. Relationships get distilled down simple tricks and methods for “making love last” but at the end of the day, a lot of it is how you feel about how you feel about each other and your relationship.

Home

So, Saturday was a big day. Jesse and I started out our morning eating leftover Christmas crumbcake, drinking coffee, and preparing ourselves to go rental house hunting. We had a couple of hopeful houses on our list, so we were feeling really good. The rental market here in Seattle is super competitive, so we also knew we might have to sign a lease that day.

I was really excited. Jesse and I moved in together when I started this blog (July 2011). We were a couple weeks shy of one year together, but considering we started dating living four floors away from each other and working together, we felt pretty good about this next step (we hadn’t killed each other yet). It was July 2011. I was super excited to try living with a boy (gasp!) who was my boyfriend (double gasp!). Then, Amazon happened and Jesse moved to Seattle on Dec. 1, 2011. It was nice while it lasted, though.

Flash-forward to a year later, I graduated from my master’s program and moved to Seattle. Jesse got a 13-month lease, meaning our lease for his studio apartment wouldn’t be done until Jan 31, 2013. Which means we’ve now lived in the studio apartment longer than we lived in our Florida townhome. It also means I don’t really feel like we’ve ever had a home. It also means I feel really cramped a lot of the time.

I believe our experience has generally been good for us. Because we’ve been through so much change and so many different environments, I believe it’s made us stronger. The distance did so much for my certainty in knowing Jesse is the guy for me, living with him in a tiny studio has reminded me what a great person and roommate he is, and looking for a home has really made me excited about our future. We want the same things out of a home and out of our life. It’s cool.

Anyway, after a full morning of looking in the dreary cold, we found the place we’re going to live! I’ll show you some pictures from the rental posting with the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Look at how cool and open it is!

It’s a real home! It’s a home I want to go directly to West Elm for and buy a bunch of overpriced pillows. It’s home I can see my friends and family staying in, our dog frolicking through, a warm fire, a happy cat, and a place where I feel safe and comforted. It’s a place where I believe Jesse and I will evolve and grow as people – together.

This is something I’m really excited about. It seems like a big piece of what I’ve wanted from this transition to Seattle is now in place. I feel like I’m growing up. It’s weird.