The Normalization of Feelings
“I’m okay. I’m not scared. I’m brave.”
I smiled hearing those words from my four-year-old granddaughter as I tucked her into bed on a recent Saturday night. I’d turned the lamp on low, surrounded her with stuffed animals she’d brought from home, kissed her, and asked if she was okay. And then I heard her words of courage.
I know that affirmations and feelings have a big place in this little girl’s home. On the way to school, she, her brother, and her mom share their daily ‘I am’ statements, and I’ve watched how her parents interact with her when she’s frustrated or angry. Even at two years old, she was guided to take deep breaths and center herself to help in self-managing her emotions.
The Daily Question
Four days after our sleepover, I listened intently as a CEO shared how emotions and affirmations are helping his team achieve greater results as well. He told me they’d begun using a software platform that asks team members how they’re feeling on a daily basis. Their confidential answers range from ‘I’m feeling great!’ to ‘I’m not having the best day.’
Even though the only person who sees a person’s response is that team member’s manager, I did wonder how honest and vulnerable people would be on this type of survey especially in a corporate setting. Before I could ask the question, he went on to share a recent experience with one person on his leadership team who had been short and out of sorts with colleagues over the past week. Each day this person replied that his day was just okay. And then, in a meeting with his boss he shared that there were some issues happening at home, and he knew those issues were affecting him at work. He shared a bit more, and his boss did the best thing he could possibly do. He listened.
The Belief That Feelings Don’t Belong at Work
I remember a time when professionals were encouraged to leave their emotions at the door. It was as if people actually believed that’s an option. I pictured myself pulling into the parking garage, grabbing my purse, getting out of the car, and before locking it, pushing a big cloud of frustration, worry, fear, and self-doubt in the back seat before walking into the office.
The cartoon quality of that visualization made me smile, but it also made me angry. Emotions are part of who we are. They come with us wherever we go, and setting an expectation that they don’t belong in the workplace is a perfect setup for an office full of robots expected to hide the truest version of themselves.
The Belief That They Do
In that meeting with the CEO, I asked him why he chose to utilize this new software. Some might think a daily survey like this is invasive, a Big Brother-ish way to nose into employees’ lives.
His answer, though, was anything but invasive. He told me he understands that emotions play a huge part in everything we do in the course of a day. He shared that his own full personal life (along with its ups and downs) has helped him understand the great importance of offering support, not judgment, to his team members. He wants honest conversations to be the norm; he wants his team to feel safe, like they can bring anything to the table without fear of reprisal; he wants them to be able to do their best work and believe that the company hired every part of who they are, not just the required skills listed on a job description.
I appreciate and admire the steps this CEO is taking in creating a culture that welcomes emotions and vulnerability, and I wasn’t at all surprised when he shared the company’s high retention rate and ever-growing client base.
The Way to Make It Happen
Wondering how you can achieve the same results? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Look up Emotion Wheel and share it with your work team. When I initially became familiar with this resource, I was eager to dive into each layer of the wheel, and I continue to enjoy the experience of taking my emotions to a deeper level.
- Start meetings with the question, “How are you feeling?” Then, especially at the beginning of this new practice, be willing to go first. Normalize feelings you have—both positive and negative—and encourage others to do the same.
- Share gratitude for the willingness of your team members to be open and honest about what they’re experiencing and how they’re feeling on any given day.
From my granddaughter’s familiarity with emotions to the mission of the CEO I had the honor of meeting with, I have faith—faith that emotion clouds in back seats will no longer be an expectation and faith that days of honest, vulnerable communication in the workplace will be the norm we all get to live.