235: Feelings at Work

11 Minutes Read

Some feelings are welcome at work, while others are seen as unprofessional. Is it okay to cry at the office? How about yelling out of anger?

If your company has unwritten rules or norms about "good" or "bad" feelings, you might be preventing people from being as connected and creative as they can be.

In this week's episode of the podcast you will discover:

  • How to stay connected with people regardless of their emotional responses to the moment
  • Why feelings can be such tricky territory at work, and how to get better at navigating them
  • Why a deliberate approach to handling feelings at the workplace will help your business thrive for the long term

If you are committed to building a high-performing company that is aligned to your vision and values, check out our new program, Grow Smooth. You will learn how to support your team not just with their emotions, but in all of the ways that matter—from marketing to sales, to creating systems and processes that help your company grow and your people thrive.


Episode Transcript

Steve Haase  0:02  
Welcome to the Superabound podcast with master coaches Erin Aquin and Steve Haase or business owners like you learn tools that help you clarify vision, clear up static and overcome challenges. You are listening to episode number 235 feelings at work. Hello, everyone. So nice to be with you here today. I am joined by my co host and co founder Erin Aquin. Today we're going to talk about feelings at work. And it's a funny one because some feelings are very welcome. If you're feeling happy, thumbs up some workplaces, it's fine to yell and scream pound on the desk. What about if someone is crying? Suddenly? Some people get a little a little squeamish when tears are involved. Why is that? From what we've seen, when some feelings are off the table when certain things are not allowed. It creates a funny experience in the workplace. So we're going to help you kind of iron some things out understand what is okay in your own mind and what is not okay, so that you can lead your team through what ever they are feeling. Hello, Eric,

Erin Aquin  1:21  
hi. And I'm feeling so uncomfortable already. So normally, we kind of have a discussion about these episodes before. But today, we did not. And I just said let's talk about it on the podcast. So this is going to be my very authentic response to this. As soon as we start you started talking Steve about feelings at work. I totally had a flashback to my 20s and a corporate job that I had and getting yelled at like, I mean, it was very immature of the person who was supposed to be a leader to yell at me. I did not do something that was yelling at worthy. But like yelling at me until I cried and going into another office and just sobbing or maybe go into the bathroom. I think I might just snuck out and gone to the bathroom. But yeah, just bawling my eyes out at work. So here we go. Let's talk about feelings. That person needed this podcast, maybe I'll send it to them.

Steve Haase  2:23  
That'd be fun. 20 years later, here you go. Hope you've learned. Love Erin. yet? Why do we get so uncomfortable when people start crying? I remember when I first started coaching. I was on a group coaching call and someone started crying. And I was like, Oh, no. Oh, no, they can't be crying. That's not okay. Fast forward a few years. I'm like, Oh, they're crying. We've done it. We're here. The realness is present. What is that shift from? Oh, no. To? Okay. I think that's part of it, right? Because there's a certain discomfort around sensitivity around real feelings around someone being raw, vulnerable. What's that all about?

Erin Aquin  3:07  
I mean, I think it's context specific. But this is common knowledge in our coaching world, but just in case, it's not to you. The most most people, like my kindergartener is learning this now, and I'm trying my best to, to reframe it for him. But most people are taught from such a young age that other people can, quote unquote, make us feel a certain way. So if someone is crying, it's because you've made them feel a certain way. And if someone is upset, it's because the customer made them feel a certain way. And you know, I want to be really careful about this, because I think we shouldn't get into a position. Of course, as leaders, if you are leading a team and someone on your team is emotional. We don't ever want to say like, well, you're thinking, a thought that's making you cry. And you know, you should have better control of your emotions. It's all your fault. I think there is some Interplay when someone's upset, it can be because of the way they've taken something that we've said, but at the same time, when you are leading people, you also have to be conscious of how you're speaking how you're treating people, because it would be crazy to say that, like my old boss, was yelling at me. I did not cry because like, he looked at me funny. He was screaming in his office at me and telling me all of the ways in which he didn't like how I had done something. So yes, my thoughts about the situation. Were the things that were upsetting me, but having someone yell and scream in your face will activate the nervous system. Because we're relational beings.

Steve Haase  5:06  
I think that's one of the critical points here, both of those, that we respond to others. So if someone's screaming at you, chances are you're going to either meet it and start screaming back or retreat from it and either get quiet or start crying, something like that. And the flip side of that, which is, each person's responses are up to them. Because the thing you want to make sure that you don't do as a leader is blame yourself for doing something wrong. Just because somebody starts crying, their response could have something to do with something completely unrelated. You could be the gentlest soul in the world, bringing the clearest, kindest feedback ever, and they could still cry. So the question is, in that moment, how do you not make it mean something negative about your own leadership? Or something negative about them? They're so weak, how could they do this, this is not the place for that kind of behavior, any of those things will build a wall in your communication. So the balancing point there is to know that you have an impact on people's responses. People are responsible for their own responses. And you're all here to try to move forward and have it be as good of a place to work as possible.

Erin Aquin  6:31  
Yeah, I mean, I think it's tricky too, because there's not like a formula to follow. We're dealing with humans who are going to have good days, bad days, things going on behind the scenes in their lives that we don't know about I'll levels of history and experiences that could have some people maybe responding in more sensitive ways, and other people putting up walls. And so much of it doesn't have to do with you. But when you're the person in the moment, who someone is responding to, of course, it can really feel like, Hey, I've really done something wrong. So I mean, generally, again, it's good to make sure you are getting feedback, I think this is why every leader does need a coach, I know we sell coaching. So it seems like of course, I would say that but you know, we have worked with enough leaders, executives, business owners to know that there's no place to get like a really good grip on the complexity of a situation. Because if you're, if you're going to anyone who works kind of below you in the hierarchy of your organization, chances are they're going to do whatever they think will be most appeasing to you, they're not maybe going to tell you the harsh truth, or they're maybe not going to be able to provide you with the nuances of the situation. Whereas someone like a coach, who's a third party who's not involved, who is not like in charge of hiring, firing, and doesn't have to like deal with the interplay of the dynamics can help you often get to the, to the bottom of things, and create space for you to notice where Hey, maybe I am really harsh in the way that I get feedback. Maybe it's not just like one person who was having a bad day who cried, but like, eight people on my team, at their quarterly review this year, cried. And so maybe it's not them being sensitive, maybe it is my delivery. And I think everyone in a leadership position, it's it's often lonely, it's often hard to get a good grip on what's really happening. Sometimes you're often the last to know when people are upset. And you need that space with someone who is there to support you, but will also be real with you.

Steve Haase  9:03  
But here's the funny thing about feelings at work. Some people think those two words shouldn't go together. That work is work and feelings should be elsewhere. But as long as you have humans who are the ones actually doing the work, you are going to have feelings at work. And that means that one way to ensure that feelings have their proper place is to actually be explicit about it. That means talking about it. It means leading the way. I remember being at a meeting where the CEO of the company was tearing up in front of 1000 people and he exclaimed, it's my Irishness. I just cry all the time. But you know he made a little joke about it. But the thing that really struck me was that he is comfortable being vulnerable. Will enough to do something that many people would never be caught dead doing. Like, I'm like Erin, like you said, I need to run to the bathroom rather than let anybody notice that I'm doing this, he did it in front of everybody. That is one way to say, feelings are welcome here is to actually let yours be present. If you're not comfortable crying in front of 1000 people, then you don't have to do that. But find your way to let the people in your world, the people on your team, know that their feelings are welcome, in order to, you know, to get the best work from them. But ultimately, to make the best place to make the best relationships, the best situation for everyone to be doing their work, because that's what has people last. That's what brings creativity. That's what brings real meaning and fulfillment to work is the relationships that we're able to build the realness that we're able to express. Is it sometimes messy? Is it sometimes, you know, inconvenient? Sure, okay, maybe. But we're humans. That's the whole thing. We're messy, we're inconvenient. And we do great work, we do amazing things. So bring the whole thing in, it will make it that much more rewarding.

Erin Aquin  11:16  
And I think it's also context specific, you know, I think about my discomfort of crying, and my corporate job was very real, had to do a lot of work about crying. And I now work in a space as a coach, where I'm gonna see somebody cry every day, a lot of my clients, it's like the place where they cry, not because I I just don't yell at them. It is often because they finally feel like they're in a safe place where they can let their guard down. But at the same time, I don't feel like it's appropriate, in my sessions with clients, for me to cry, you know, it's, it's, I don't know that it's ever happened. And I've gone through some huge things with people, I've been there for some really hard things, some major life events, things have come up that were happy and sad and tragic, and, and yet, when I am the coach holding the space, I am just making room for someone else's emotions. And I don't feel like I'm holding anything back. I just feel like this is their sacred container where they can let it all go. And I don't feel emotionally pulled into that to the point where, you know, I'm crying. Now, have I ever cried about my work? 100%? Have I cried to you, Steve? Yes, we've, you know, we've had our moments about ups and downs and things in business. But it really is context specific, you know, you worked at a place that had a nap room, and I'm sure the customer service people were like, I just need to cold lay in the dark and in the crying room. Know if they actually did that. But that's I was like, that's where people go to cry. You know, it is context specific, you probably wouldn't want that customer service person crying on the phone with someone, but making it safe for people to be human. And if someone's work does require a deeper level of support, or they're going through something, can you make your company, your workplace? available? For that, you know? Do you support your people with coaches have their own where they have somewhere they can offload all of the things? Do you provide mental health care support to people? You know, a lot of companies will, you know, they pay for people's therapy, or whatever it is. There are ways in which you can make it spacious enough to work for you and not invite like, you know, it's a Friday rant session where everybody come on in and scream at each other like, No, we probably don't want to invite that. But you might want to understand that the customer service team is probably going to get more complaints than than the engineers. You know, for a coaching business. The coaches are gonna get all the love from all the people, but your support staff or your sales team might not they might need a different level of support. So I think it's, it's it also comes down to like hiring people and being explicit about what the role entails. And then having things in place where your company is really clear about how human emotions should be dealt with at work. work I remember, Steve, you lost a family member? Well, you had a corporate job. And the way that that company sort of took care of you was to give you time, they sent a beautiful gift basket who had a lot of ongoing support as you needed, time off and then needed. And then when you went back, and I just think that, you know, they weren't inviting you to break down on calls with potential clients, but they were making space for you. And understanding that this was just a really hard like moment.

Steve Haase  15:35  
So to wrap it up, I want to offer some things you can do, when there are emotions at work. The first is, as Erin said, Know, your position on feelings at work. If it's clear, hey, we just keep it even keel here, then remind people, Hey, we keep it even keel. If you let people express themselves, let people express themselves, but make sure that you're not making it up on a case by case person by person basis, but it's actually consistent across how your company supports their people. Second, make space as appropriate for that feeling to exist. When you say that feeling isn't important, not real, you shouldn't be feeling that, what the hell, there's no room for that here, it pushes it out to the outskirts, which means part of that person is going to be at the outskirts, you're not going to get the best of what they have to offer. So allow it to be there, even if the full expression of it, right, even if certain things aren't allowed, if if you don't allow screaming, but you can still allow the anger, right, your anger is okay. We don't allow screaming, for instance. So be consistent, acknowledge it and make space for it. And know that emotions, like all things will change, they are temporary, making space for it does not mean you're suddenly going to have a mosh pit at your company, right? The just because anger is present does not mean that people are not going to be able to work together.

Erin Aquin  17:17  
And I also think for just as a kind of final point. For anyone who has a company that is maybe more established, and you're sitting here listening to this going, Oh, I have no idea how to handle this. And we've had actually had issues with this before. If you have an established team, I actually think this is one really beautiful way of engaging everybody on kind of coming up with a more collaborative policy. Because if you have a team of 20, they have worked on other companies probably. And some companies have been really amazing about whatever the emotional spectrum that we as humans will definitely go through, and some are not. So your team will know the plate like they will have a story like mine, they will have a story of like, screaming was totally fine. HR was next door and did nothing and said nothing. And I cried in the bathroom and had to work for the rest of the day. And you know, quit a couple months later. But those experiences of the people who already work with you can really inform how you do it as a company. And I think it's better rather than just rolling something out or saying, you know, I heard a podcast about emotions at work. And I would like to come up with a solution. And this is how we deal with emotions at work, everybody. I just think it's kind of a fun opportunity to engage your team and like have a real honest conversation about you know, what, what are the boundaries, what are what's appropriate, what's not, what team might need more support. In this level? What do we do about a major life upheaval? How do we as a company with our vision, and our values want to respond and support each other. So we hope that was helpful for you. And if you are really committed to building a high performing company that is aligned to your vision and values, come and check out our new program grow smooth, head over to besuperabound.com/grow This is the place where you will learn how to support your team not just with their emotions, but in all of the ways that matter from marketing to sales, to creating systems and processes that really help your company grow and help your people thrive. Talk to you again next time. Take care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai