Managing emotions at work as a manager

Je emoties op het werk beheersen als manager

Emotion management, pressure, mental workload, tension, multitasking, burn-out… these are just some of the common words borrowed from the manager’s lexicon. It’s hardly surprising that the nerves of business leaders, who carry the health and equilibrium of a company on their shoulders, are put to the test. But do they have “permission” to share their emotions with their employees and associates? Why and how should they learn to master them? Here’s how it works.

When it comes to work, and even more so to running a business, emotions are key. A fact of life that wasn’t always so. As sociologist Vincent De Gauléjac* reminds us on the France Inter program “Grand bien vous fait”, devoted to the place of emotions in the workplace: “Before, we used to separate reason and emotion. Work was a place of restraint, where you had to grit your teeth and not show weakness or suffering. (…) Now, emotions are the object of attention.” But what emotions are we talking about? Is it a good idea to share them all when you’re a company director?

Emotions at work

Pleasure, anger, fear, boredom, joy, frustration, anxiety, creativity, doubt, stress, adrenalin, guilt… It’s impossible to deny the range of emotions generated by work, a source of self-realization and fulfillment, but also of questioning, sometimes discomfort and great challenges.

The more invested you are in your job, the more it occupies a central place in your life, and the more multiple, complex and powerful your emotions will be. For a long time, companies were built on the opposition of rationality and efficiency to emotions, yet the latter are inherent to today’s world of work.

As work sociologist Aurélie Jeantet** explains: “Emotions are part of intelligence. (…) Without emotion, you can’t make good decisions”. Expressing your emotions, whether positive or negative, is a way of asserting your role and position in the corporate world. That’s why a business owner has to ask himself this question: what place should I give to my emotions?

Emotions, a manager’s asset

As a company director, you inevitably have a responsibility and a role to play with your employees. If passion, enthusiasm and recognition are emotions that boost the troops, on the other hand, negative emotions have harmful repercussions on an entire company. A financial crisis, a redundancy, a fund-raising event, a delay in the delivery of goods… there are so many situations that can cause stress or anxiety for a manager.

We have to accept this reality. Because an emotion, even when presented as negative because it’s unpleasant and inevitably uncomfortable, is also there to alert us to a danger or difficulty. However, while the aim is not to suppress or deny our emotions, depending on the context, situation or environment, it is often necessary to channel them.

Welcoming, identifying and managing emotions

Regulating emotions means first and foremost perceiving and identifying them. Making an emotional decision can have consequences not only for productivity, but also for a company’s well-being. However, controlling your own emotions doesn’t mean stifling them – quite the opposite. Because while it’s not always a good idea to express your emotions unfiltered to your employees, repressed emotions can also have consequences. “If we don’t listen to our emotions, they’ll scream even louder,” says Sophie Morin, psychotherapist and occupational psychologist***.

When emotions are rejected from the sphere of work, this leads to suffering. If we repress them, we find ourselves prevented from working properly. We also suffer from a sense of loneliness and isolation. That’s why entrepreneurs need to consider their emotions as guides. And, ultimately, not to suffer them. “Sadness, for example, can give us information about things we shouldn’t accept. Listening to it will help us change our behavior. Feeling disgust can mean that we’ve gone against one of our values. All these emotions are experienced negatively, or at least painfully. And yet, they can be useful when it comes to making decisions,” explains Marine Colombel, a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry****.

The art of learning to manage emotions

Once you’ve identified and accepted them, you must dare to verbalize them. Because while buried emotions are bound to interfere with the quality of our work, expressing them is also a wonderful opportunity to transform them.

In the case of anxieties, verbalizing them will also help to put them at a distance. Putting things into perspective and taking a step back is the key to hearing – and taking full account of – the message conveyed by emotion. So the worry shouldn’t come from the emotion itself, but from what we do with it. By expressing it, we welcome it, learn to control it, but above all we project ourselves and build for the future.

The entrepreneur will also have to come to terms with the emotions of others. Empathy and benevolence are therefore qualities specific to managers. The collective, energized by the manager, will also play an essential role. Feeling supported and understood also depends on team cohesion.

Managing emotions at work: simple exercises

To express your emotions without becoming overwhelmed, there are some easy-to-practice exercises. Marine Colombel explains a perfect breathing technique to keep control and avoid being overwhelmed. The subtlety also lies in choosing when – and with whom – to let our emotions flow.

“Flash meditation involves taking three deep breaths. First, you breathe deeply through your nose, asking yourself: “What are the sensations in my body? On the second breath: “How’s my breathing? Finally, for the third and last breath: “What’s good for me?” We simply let these questions resonate within us, to refocus on the present moment and then regain control of our body and thoughts.

* La Névrose de classe, La Société malade de la gestion and Travail, les raisons de la colère, Vincent De Gauléjac, Points
** Les émotions au travail, Aurélie Jeantet, CNRS Editions
*** Vivre mieux au travail, s’assirmer et réguler ses émotions, Sophie Morin, Editions Odile Jacob
****Ecoutetes émotions pour te libérer, Marine Colombel, éditions Marabout

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