There is a lot of debate out there about whether it’s ok to show emotion at work. From excitement, frustration and sadness; some say heightened emotion makes you look weak or erratic, others say emotion is a healthy, natural process.

How do you feel when you see a colleague crying at work? Do you see that employee as immature or weak? Or do you empathise with them (as long as it doesn’t happen all the time)?

What about when your colleagues speak up at work? What’s the first thing that you think? Do words like bossy, shrill and moody spring to mind?

Thanks to pop culture, showing your emotions, no matter which gender you identify with, has become increasingly common. In fact, 45% of workers have admitted to crying at work. Most of the workforce agrees that showing heightened emotion at work is acceptable as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence (although between you and I, during those stressful projects I have reached for the tissues too often).

Often, the reality is that emotion is seen as a reflection of a person’s passion. Some even say heightened emotions have no negative effects; they just show you’re human. Whitehurst, who ranked No. 10 on Glassdoor’s list of America’s best CEOs, argues that “You might see tears from time to time, but I think that signals that the person cares about what is happening,”

So what about if you are nervous about appearing unprofessional due to extreme emotions? Well, Whitehurst has some advice: “Instead of deciding to show more emotion, I would rather encourage people to think about how they communicate their ideas at work. If you’re excited about an idea, how do you show it? If you disagree with a suggestion, what do you do?

So what can you do if you find yourself on the brink of a breakdown?

  • Take a moment to breath. Once the tears start it can be hard to stop. If you feel wound up and stressed step away from your work for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself.
  • This may involve a quick walk to the coffee shop (or maybe to the kitchen for a pot of chamomile tea, trust me, herbal tea has great calming effects). Or even to the bathroom to gather your thoughts.
  • Learn how to Prioritise. Write a list of the things that you need to get done. Work out which tasks are urgent and important and need immediate attention. Next, assess their value. On the list of important tasks, identify which is the highest value to your business and organisation and start with that. Know when to delegate move tasks to another day.
  • Reflect. Are you working outside your comfort zone and completing tasks that drain your energy? Reflect on your Extended DISC assessment to help you identify which tasks may be draining your energy. Have a chat to your manager to work out if some of these tasks can be delegated to others in the team.
  • Get Support! If it all gets the better of you, find a trusted confidante that you can talk about your worries. We recommend someone who is outside the workplace, like a friend or family member, so venting doesn’t escalate into something worse. Calling your countries helplines is also a great way to reach out for support. If your workplace relationships are upsetting you, make an appointment to meet with someone in your HR Department or an external consultant.

What are some of the best ways to support employees as a business?

Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical school, suggests companies perform ‘pre-mortems’ before starting large projects (or even before recruiting an individual). Sounds morbid, I know! A business pre-mortem basically analyses how a project might go wrong. This helps to identify hidden emotions, attitudes and reservations that team members may be hesitant to talk about.

At the end of the day, remember its ok to cry! Being in tune with your emotions can help you to communicate more effectively with those around you, in and out of the workplace. We are all human and sometimes our emotions can get the best of us. How you respond to challenges or achievements can demonstrate maturity and professialism.

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