Decrease the Suck or Increase the Awesome?
Tough Questions for Your Professional Development

Emotions and Your Career


With my Career Clarity Camp, we're entering the home stretch and starting to integrate the lessons we've learned. One of the things we're working on this week is looking at the emotions we feel about the work we've been doing, which got me thinking about the power of emotions at work. 

Emotions at Work

One thing I've learned about work is that being "professional" often (usually?) means being unemotional. On a regular basis we are asked to check our emotions at the door, especially any negative emotions we may have like sadness, fear, anxiety, confusion, etc. But positive emotions, like joy, aren't often welcome at work either.  I think it's because emotions have a way of getting messy and "out of control." They are also distractions from just getting things done.  

The other issue with emotions at work is that so often we are rushing to DO things that it's hard to notice what we are feeling in the first place. We are just dealing with the the next thing on our "To Do" lists and it's hard to stop for even a few seconds to reflect on what we may be feeling. 

 All of this blocking of emotions, though, takes a toll. Emotions aren't really amenable to blocking. They just go underground until they explode in some way we would prefer they hadn't. Or they coil up inside us, clogging our creativity and our connection to ourselves. This blockage, in turn, leads to boredom and apathy. 

Working with Our Emotions

It's unfortunate that we spend so much time keeping emotions out of our work because they can be some of the most valuable clues we have to work with. Noticing where I feel energized or inspired or where I feel frustrated or anxious can tell me a lot about what I want more of and what I want less of at work. My emotions show me where there are problems or issues I need to deal with--work relationships that aren't' working or tasks that need to be looked at more closely. 

One thing I've encouraged the Career Clarity Campers to do is to make time in their days to pay attention to the emotions they're feeling as they go about their work. I've suggested that they stop once per hour or even 3-4 times a day to check in and ask themselves:

  • What have I been doing? What activities have you been engaged in? 
  • How do I feel about it? Note particularly the things you do that leave you feeling energized and interested. These may be things you want more of. 
  • Who am I doing it with? See if there's something about the people you are working with or the conversations you are having that feels energizing to you. Or are you doing things alone? What does that tell you? 

 They then write down these experiences and their reactions and look for trends and themes over time. 

Tuning in to your emotions this way can be a great 30-day experiment.  Paying attention in particular to the things that are inspiring or energizing so you can bring more of it into your work is also one of the best ways to increase the awesome.

I've found, too, that when I focus on the emotions I'm feeling in a work day, I do a better job of connecting with people and with building richer relationships. I notice when an interaction feels particularly positive and I can acknowledge that with the person I'm talking to. This always creates an even deeper bond. I can also see where emotions like boredom or frustration are telling me that I need to revisit how I'm handling something. This often leads to more fruitful conversations on how I can revise what I'm doing. 

Our emotions should not be left at the door when we go to work each day. Not only does that not work anyway, but our emotional lives are rich sources of learning and connection. They are our authentic selves communicating with us about our experiences and relationships. We need them to do our best work and to have conversations that matter

So what role do your emotions play in your work life? Do you bring them with you to work or do you check them at the door? 



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