Business and Emotions (In Control) Are A Good Mix
You may also be interested in our popular article for business women, There’s No Crying in Business!
Nearly every female executive I’ve talked with has admitted to crying at work. Their stories usually follow the same pattern.
They tell me, “I burst into tears—early in my career—and was mortified at what I was doing. I had lost complete control of myself. It didn’t matter what other people thought of me as much as what I thought of myself. I have to make sure this NEVER happens again! “ Then each woman then began to develop her own techniques to put into action whenever she felt this might start happening again. And the good news here is that the high-level executives I talked with said they’ve learned to control this behavior.
The men observing tearful outbursts were extremely uncomfortable and in a quandary about what an appropriate response is in the workplace. At home, they might hug the woman, but not at work. Some men reacted by staring at their paperwork and some tried patting the woman on the back. In a few instances, men said they wondered if they were being manipulated.
A woman observing an outburst does not approve of it either. She thinks the other woman should have more control.
I know how much women want to learn techniques they can put into action whenever this might happen. I know because they emailed WomensMedia in huge numbers when we asked if they wanted information on “Crying at the Office.” We then asked a psychotherapist (Linda Poverny) and an executive coach (Susan Picascia) to work together to write an article for WomensMedia. They advised women to take these 7 steps:
1. Anticipate emotionally charged situations and prepare your responses.
2. Increase your self-awareness. Try to figure out if you’re crying because you’re actually angry. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and focus on solving the problem that’s making you angry. Re-focusing on the problem will help you calm down.
3. Women often cry when they feel overwhelmed with work or if their efforts go unrecognized. The advice here to seek out a mentor or a coach to help you. Learn to cultivate a sense of optimism—to realize things generally work out.
4. Compartmentalize — If you frequently cry at the office, your personal life may be intruding on your business life. Create a boundary between the two. And seek support to help you in your personal life.
5. Women are sensitive to personal criticism. Even though this hurts, learn to retrain yourself. You might try focusing on your breathing and using relaxation techniques to slow down your reactions and to gain control.
6. Another technique is to focus on Content instead of the Criticism. For example, talk about how you can get the reports in more quickly rather than on the remark, “You’re too slow.”
7. And if you must, excuse yourself from the room.
Now, the business world is quickly retiring the old adage: “Emotions don’t belong in business.” Tony Schwartz of FastCompany reports that a variety of businesses are exploring the role of emotions in business. “This renewed interest in self-awareness is, in part, the result of the rising corporate power of baby boomers. The increasing presence of women in the workplace and the higher comfort level they bring to the territory of emotions have also nudged companies in this direction. And the arrival of the new economy has made companies realize that what they need from their workers goes beyond hands, bodies, and eight-hour days.”
When we think of emotions, empathy certainly comes to mind. It’s the understanding of the inner state of others. Virginia Satir described a model of this inner state as the Personal Iceberg. In this model, inner state is a hierarchy of copings, feelings, perceptions, expectations, yearnings and ultimately the Self. She called it an “iceberg” because so much of it is out of view. Empathy is appreciating all of these elements in others.
In business, empathy helps you evaluate how something you are about to say or do will affect those you are working with. It’s important in leadership—it’s important with customers.
Okay, okay, so emotions are the new face of business. A few tears, now and then, are on their way to acceptable business behavior. This is good for women because our chemicals (especially the hormone prolactin) prompt us to cry four times as often as men. What is not good is the feeling of being out of control.
Let me make it clear that it’s not healthy to suppress your emotions for long. When you leave work, analyze how you felt, what made you feel that way, and talk it over with your family and your friends. This will help you balance your work life.
Now’s here’s the Tip of the Week for Business Women.
When you feel as if you may begin sobbing, it’s important to not let your eyes look downward. Looking downward brings on the tears more quickly.
Try to think about something else—baseball or golf comes to mind!
Delay the situation that’s causing your discomfort. Say something like, ”Excuse me. I’d like to continue this conversation tomorrow.” Leave the room immediately—put on your sunglasses—and take a walk outside. Don’t go to the women’s restroom where someone might see you break down.
Now, you’ve got the tips to rely on—stop worrying about out of control emotions—and start relying on your talent for using those incontrol emotions which business now appreciates!
Podcast (always less than 10 minutes), Working in Heels, by Nancy Clark, Is It OK If Big Girls Cry In The Office?