Emotions in the Workplace

Why All Choices Are Emotional

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Why All Choices are Emotional

Any belief we take on, or any logic we follow, we do so because on some level, we believe it will bring us closer to feeling better about ourselves and our reality, or it helps us defend against losing what level of comfort we already have.


Steve is a middle manager and a programmer who’s in his mid-thirties. He is in my Be Your Own Coach workshop, and I’ve asked him to write down his top ten “wants” in thirty-seconds.

Like most of the others in the workshop on this day, he doesn’t make it past three desires listed in the time allotted. I tell the workshop that this is evidence that not one of them is thinking about what they really want often enough, or they’d have successfully listed more than 10 desires each, given the same amount of time.

Steve agrees: “I realize that I haven’t thought about what I really wanted in years!” he reveals to the rest of the workshop.

I ask Steve to pick one of his desires from the list. He picks some training he wants his employer to provide him. I ask him why he wants it. He tells me that it will give him the certification he needs to get a promotion, and it will keep his skills current.

I ask Steve what that would mean to him. I ask him how that would make him feel. He disregards the feeling question, and answers logically (as I expect him to, because he is a Jungian thinker), “I am more likely to get a promotion and a raise with this training,” he says.

“How does that feel?” I persist.

“I would feel more confident leading my direct reports, and plus… well, I just realized something about my personality: I love to learn. I love knowledge! I’d feel great just learning new stuff!

“So, if you had to sum it up” I continue, “How would this additional confidence, and the process of learning new stuff make you feel?”

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Emotions in the Workplace

Image: Grid of Faces Expressing Different Emotions

Because I'm teaching a course called "Keeping the Emotions in Check" later this month, I'm very interested in what's going on out there on this topic. In fact, after reading a lot of what's out there, I can tell you that the content I deliver will provide more perspective than the title of my course suggests, and will go beyond what many recommend as "control."

The course is aimed at folks struggling with, or interested in, ways of regulating and managing emotions in the workplace. You might guess that the no one would enroll in a course like this if everything were working out for them on all fronts without a hitch—emotional challenges are alive and well wherever we earn our living.

The natural reaction to things not working so well on the emotional front, is to "take more action" and "exert more control." True, some emotional situations call for immediate action and control, and even special training to handle. But the vast majority of emotions in the workplace are best treated long before they reach a crises point—or even an uncomfortable point.

I believe that thinking in terms of "taming" and "controlling" emotions is an approach that is mostly necessary and applicable when we don't have an overall emotional strategy.

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