Leadership Tips: Invite Negative Emotions

Leadership Tips: Invite Negative Emotions

It is common to feel discomfort when dealing with other people’s emotions in the workplace. The old saying - leave your emotions at the door – can be a real invitation. I’m sure you know someone that you wish would take this advice more often.

The problem with that statement is that many leaders want some emotions…and don’t want others. Most leaders welcome a lot of laughing, smiling, cheering, and all the happy emotions. And yet, they would want to modify that statement to: Leave your negative emotions at the door. It is not always fun to deal with disappointment, anger, frustration, what would be considered negative emotions.

However, recent research has shown that negative thoughts and emotions play a critical role in helping us to understand our experiences. And hence, they fuel decision-making.

In today’s workplace, leaders who are not comfortable with negative emotions are typically less able to create movement and drive change. According to a piece from Fast Company, Why Emotionally Intelligent People Are More Successful, the Carnegie Institute of Technology carried out research that showed that 85% of our financial success was due to skills in "human engineering", personality, and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. They found that only 15% was due to technical ability.

This week’s tip is to include emotions in your conversations – both positive and negative. When someone comes to you with a problem, ask them how they feel about it. The goal is to have a person own their feelings. Ask questions about them.

And if there are no emotions around the issue, that might signal bad news. Or at least the knowledge that there may not be significant movement made on the issue. 

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