A case for emotions in business

Emotions and business have been kept separate for many many years. Traditionally, business leaders have been taught that emotions are for outside of the office walls and when we enter into the workplace they are to be tucked away and dealt with when the employee returns home. A neat packing away and unpacking.

Perhaps there has been some fear that showing of emotion would lead to issues that the employers would rather not deal with, or perhaps there has been a concern that emotions distract from productivity and focus. Whatever the core reasons, the idea that we are are two different people is simply insane. We can no sooner switch off a part of us than we can change the makeup of our bodies by flicking a switch. The same person that has a busy and stressful home life, is also the same person who shows up at the office each day to lead a team.

It is clear that the more we try to keep the two parts of this person separate, the less engaged that person becomes as we miss the real essence of what might be driving their behaviour.

Neuroscience is now providing evidence that we really must embrace emotion if we are to get the most out of people in a working environment. More and more workplace interventions (trainings, workshops, development) are teaching businesses to embrace the full person. As an impressive football coach once told me “If you don’t know your players off the field, you’ll never get the most out of them on the field.”

Emotion drives a huge amount of our behaviour. To ignore it is to ignore our drivers and potentially become quite separate from self responsibility.

“Research shows that, for better or worse, emotions influence employees’ commitment, creativity, decision making, work quality, and likelihood of sticking around—and you can see the effects on the bottom line. So it’s important to monitor and manage people’s feelings as deliberately as you do their mindset.” (Harvard Business Review)

Emotions are at the core of our motivations and need to be understood if employers are really going to create a truly high performing culture. Some organisations have already begun to implement a self-reporting of emotions to support their understanding of what and when people feel engaged and motivated at work. Recognising even the most basic emotions – love, joy, anger, fear and sadness is a great starting point.

For example, if I you’d like to create a culture that retains employees and focuses heavily on achievement you may like to understand how people are feeling when they do achieve a goal, or perhaps, when they don’t. How do you motivate people if achievement is not high on their values list?

It is especially important to understand, recognise and acknowledge feelings now that we are operating in a much more hybrid environment where seeing facial expressions and body language has become much harder, and having mini interactions between meetings all but impossible.

If emotions are truly at the core of creating deep motivation and commitment, surely understanding where they come from, what is driving them and how we work with them is essential to creating a successful and enjoyable workplace.