If you’re still of the old-school belief that feelings don’t matter or belong at work, please allow this blog to serve as your wake-up call.

Neuroscience has progressed to include emotion. Even the most basic theories on human motivation and people management tell us that feelings drive everything! We aim to hire leaders who are inspiring (meaning, they’re able to appeal to the emotions of others as a way to move them to action). All signs are pointing towards emotions continuing to having a real place at work in the future. 

You may be a leader who already buys into the importance of emotional management. Rest assured that many of us who fall into that category still have room to grow because while we believe in it, we may not have consistent, conscious practices around it. 

Healthy emotional management hasn’t been modeled at work for most of us and it isn’t yet a consistent part of our strategic conversations. I regularly meet organizations who still fail to include an appropriately robust proportion of emotional consideration, language, and framework for their change management initiatives. It remains a huge part of why change fails.

Be it situational or habitual, if you struggle (even if only within yourself) when you have to interact with employees who are emotional, you have an opportunity to further hone your Emotional Intelligence (a.k.a EQ or EI).

Leaders are being called by their employee to demonstrate a much more sophisticated level of emotional availability. This doesn’t mean you need to gush about all your feelings or invite them to overshare theirs. In simplest terms, to grow in this area, you need to be in touch with how your work makes you feel, the emotions and reactions that specific people and relationship evoke in you, AND to be able to be with your employees when they are in an emotional state while not being reactive or judgmental.

Wondering if a leader you know has an opportunity to increase awareness of their own emotions? Here are some of the greatest tells:

  • They lead change initiatives with little consideration to the human elements. Which include: a (two-way) communication strategy, change impact evaluations for each employee, general consideration, empathy for, and plan of action that addresses employees’ feelings about impending changes
  •  Phrases like: “I’m not emotional. Stop being emotional.  It’s business, not personal. I’m okay with my employees having feelings, but I’m not an emotional person. I wish people would stop whining (a.k.a having feelings) and just get the work done.”
  • No focus on company culture, talent development, or employee engagement
  • They have explosive anger or are emotional frigid (icing people out) with or without awareness of how it impacts others
  • They are unable to compromise, suffer with perfectionism, place blame, are highly secretive or non-committal
  • When the chips are down, they’re a completely different person

Here are a few questions to help you peer over the fence and into your emotional tendencies towards yourself, your boss, and your team.

  • How do you feel when an employee cries in front of you or cries often?
  • What about one who is angry or frequently angry?
  • When your own boss or the board says or does something you don’t like, how do you feel and how are your feelings impacting the actions you do or do not take?
  • When the chips are down, who are you with your team?
  • How comfortable are you expressing your emotions to others?
  • How confident are you in your ability to name the emotion you’re feeling? 

If you’re looking for some resources on this topic, I highly recommend anything by Daniel Goleman whose powerful research over the years has helped us come to know for sure that IQ is not the sole indicator of potential and excellence. Your emotional quotient “EQ” is equally (and some may argue, more) important.

If it seems to you like this blog started out being about ‘them’ and ended up being about ‘you’, I’m glad you noticed. It is easier to see dynamic patterns in other people, but the real opportunity is to look for those in ourselves.  How might you take a step toward expanding your emotional intelligence so that it becomes your greatest strength?

This article was originally published on Forbes.


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