Time and again during our consulting work, we hear explanations as to why emotions should be kept out of business life. In some places, the image that feelings are a bit like poorly trained puppies has become established. So when I enter the office, the motto is: emotions have to stay outside. When I go home in the evening, I pack them up again and then they are allowed to 'romp' a bit. Once in the office, team members should "function" as efficiently as possible. We often hear statements such as: “Why don’t my employees listen to me and implement the agreed changes? The facts are on the table! We have to work more efficiently and introduce the new software. What's so hard about that?”
But people are not robots. They are not machines that respond at the touch of a button. We all know that - in theory. And yet in practice a mental model that equates humans to machines persists. We ask ourselves: which buttons do I have to press to keep my team running smoothly? The roles are clearly defined so everything ought to run like clockwork. Feelings have no place in this way of thinking.
Feelings open the door to authenticity
The reality is that our feelings are not separable from us. We are a unity of body, thoughts and emotions. Without empathic social interaction, no one could grow up, learn and develop motivation and performance. Feelings connect us. They bring us into contact with ourselves and others and open the door to authenticity. Only when I recognize the emotions of another person can I recognize the person I am dealing with.
All our emotions have an important use and this also applies to unpleasant feelings such as sadness or anger. They help us to cope with difficult situations, to focus our attention and to become aware of what needs we have.
Emotions are contagious
We have a sensitive antenna for recognizing other people's emotions. Even though we do not always consciously use these antennae in everyday life, we unconsciously allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the emotional vibrations in the room.
What’s more: even suppressed emotions are contagious. This often happens during fast transitions from one meeting to the next. If I get annoyed during the first meeting of the day about an attack by a colleague and then immediately go to the next meeting, the risk of ‘infection’ is quite considerable. If the emotion is not consciously processed, I may be able to suppress it but not really get rid of it completely. Ostensibly, I'm already focusing on the new topic but in the background, body and mind are still emotionally activated. Outwardly, colleagues then see a discrepancy between what I say and what I give off through body language, tone, and facial expression. The emotional message finds its way and in the end remains as an impression made on the colleagues.
The emotional contagion happens quickly and sometimes 'quietly'. This effect is reinforced when a person is expressive or there is a hierarchical difference involved. This results in employees being more sustainably infected by the emotions of their bosses. Entire corporate cultures can be traced back to the emotional attitude of the executives. What mentality and atmosphere are sustainably supported? A mentality of confidence, of curiosity? Or a mentality of fear and mistrust.
Emotions carry a deep intelligence
They make us aware of what we need right now, where we are drawn to or what is not good for us. Persistently ignoring them brings us into conflict and in the worst case affects our health. Emotions exist in our body and cannot simply be got rid of or left outside the office door. They make their way up into our consciousness and stay until they are heard.
Make use of the intelligence of emotions and listen to them and sense them more closely.
How do I feel at the moment? What emotions are stirred inside me?
What is it that these emotions are drawing my attention to? What useful function might these emotions have?
How can I care for myself right now? How can I care for my team?
What solutions can I find together with my team that will make use of these feelings constructively?
Take a deliberate 15-minute break between your meetings or go for a short walk during your lunch break to explore your emotions using reflection questions.
Establish a check-in with your team where you actually talk about your feelings and you can say ‘stop’ as soon as you notice they are being ignored.
Discuss with your team what needs to happen for you to permit more feelings.
Emotions are the essential 'lubricant' for good communication and enable real connection between people. It takes both reason and feelings to create a climate in which teams can unfold their full potential.