The Truth and Science Around Showing Emotions at Work
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: (singing) This is Write Your OWN Story, Three Keys to Rise and Thrive In Life and Business. I'm your host, Rebecca Fleetwood Hession. So I kind of lost my shit last week on the podcast. Did you listen? Yeah, it's fine. Everything's fine. So I thought today I would just do a little debrief of what happens after you show very expressive emotion publicly. At work, really, because this is my work, because here's the deal. I want to break this down for us today about what happens afterwards when you express big emotion. Is it appropriate to express emotion like that at work? Do we need it? I did a little investigative research afterwards just to see what others thought. I think if you followed me for any amount of time, you know that I'm all about being yourself, but because we have decades of this industrial age model of work where we've treated ourselves more like machines than the humans that we are, There's still this uneasiness about showing big emotions, especially at work. And so we often get what I call the vulnerability hangover, ba-ba-ba. And this has always been a thing for me because I am passionate, tend to show emotion, have strong opinions. And so the number of times in my corporate life that I would go home and lay in bed and literally go through every conversation that I'd had that night, every word that I said and ask myself, "Well, so, did you embarrass yourself tonight, Rebecca? Did you overstep? Did you make an ass out of yourself?" The vulnerability hangover. And over the years I learned to have the conversation back to myself. So I would evaluate what might come back and bite me in the ass. And then I would ask myself, "Did I state my truth? Would I still say the same thing today if asked?" And I learned to get more comfortable that my strong opinions absolutely had a place. And just because somebody didn't agree with me didn't give them the right to believe that I was wrong. So there's never going to be a world where we all agree, right? That would be boring. We'd never get creativity or innovation. We have to have some tension in order to get improvement. To even get balance requires tension. And so I've gotten much more comfortable and confident about my strong opinions, but it's been interesting. Like everything else it's contextual, right? It's, does this fit here or does this fit with this group or this situation? Because it's never just about the content or what's happening, it's always about the context of where and how that fits into everything that's happening around it. And so last week's rant, you know, it's my show so if you're not expecting strong opinions from Rebecca Fleetwood Hession, you probably aren't tuning in. And so that felt contextual, but I started to think about it in terms of my other parts of my life or my previous life in corporate America. And that's really what makes the difference of whether your strong emotions and passion is appropriate for work, is where are you? How are you talking about it? Who are you talking about it with? And I think we absolutely need to show more emotion at work. In fact, when I Googled articles about should you show emotions at work, overwhelmingly the majority of the articles, all of them actually, not the majority, all of them, and they went back to 2016 I think was the oldest one that I read, universally said, " Yes, we need to show more emotions at work." But it also, many of them talked about why we don't. And it is because this pattern of treating ourselves like machines and that we were supposed to be machines all the time, made it more uncomfortable to share our emotions at work. Things like, would I be seen as a failure? Like, " Oh, look, they broke. They cracked. They cracked under the pressure." I mean, come on. I didn't shave my head last week like Britney Spears, God love her. But I was passionate about my opinions. The other common theme about why it's difficult to show emotions at work was that vulnerability is still often seen as a weakness, and that's just not going to work. I mean, Brené Brown has taught us about it book after book that we have to make that switch, not only for ourselves, but for the quality of life and work that we desire. So moving from this industrial age model of work into what I call the age of humanity means our whole person comes with us, including our emotions and our passions and our fears and our failures. And the only way that we let go of this corporate persona, this corporate soldier who can take on anything without showing their emotions or without breaking, the only way we make the shift into the age of humanity is by making the shift into the age of humanity. And leaders need to go first. And so one of the best things that we can do as a leader is show some vulnerability, share some of your failures. I went to a session early in my career. My CEO had invited me. It was put on by YPO, Young Presidents' Organization, and this was easily 35 years ago. And do you think about how many sessions I've been to in my career? I don't remember many of them explicitly. This one I do. And the name of the session was called Nothing Fails Like Success. And the entire session was about, you should share your journey, your failures, because if all you share is your success, people won't believe that they can aspire to your level of leadership. Again, remember, this was put on by Young Presidents' Organization, so it was saying, " Hey, if you're the president of the organization, you need to let people know that it wasn't a straight line or an easy path to get there so that they don't give up when it gets hard." And it was a really good session. But you know what's really interesting? Because I wasn't yet a president, I did report to the president, I remember even then, in my 30s, thinking, " Why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you share your failures and your frustrations?" And I thought it was interesting that they needed a session to tell them that. Maybe I've just always been arrogant. It didn't feel arrogant. It wasn't like, " I know better than you." I was genuinely intrigued and confused about why that would be a bad thing. So I often attribute, this is going to sound really funny, I often attribute my confidence and my courage to do bold things for my work and make bold changes for my work based on the fact that I didn't grow up in a corporate household, so I didn't know any better. I didn't know there were corporate rules. I grew up on a small farm in southeast Indiana, my grandparents' farm, where we had a mobile home, a trailer on an acre of land that my grandparents gave to my mom and my dad as a wedding present, I think. I grew up with factory workers and farmers. We talked about failure. Are you kidding me? We pointed it out to each other on a regular basis. And so I didn't grow up with this" fake it till you make it" stuff. So I think that was a huge benefit to me because I didn't know there were rules. And it wasn't until I progressed in my career, the jump I made from working in the staffing industry in a small to mid- size company, to my corporate job at FranklinCovey was the first time that I looked around and thought, " Ooh, maybe I don't belong here. Maybe I should pay more attention to the rules or the standards of what other people are doing." And that is when I started having the vulnerability hangovers. That's when I started going back to my room and saying, " Did I say anything stupid?" And I think that's just really interesting because I think it was the size of the organization, the fact that I worked for the world's biggest thought leaders in leadership, people that were quoted every single day, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. I mean The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is still one of the best- selling business books of all time. And so it was this weird, like, " Do people really know me? Is it safe here?" And I certainly had an amazing team of professionals that I respect greatly and still ask for their advice and guidance today. But I think there is something to be said about the size of the organization exacerbating some of those feelings of, " Should I share my emotions at work? Can I truly be myself?" In fact, I have advised more than a few clients over the years to consider moving out of a big corporate setting into a small to mid- size organization because they were craving this, like, " I want to know that I am making a difference. I want to have more impact." And when you're in a small and mid- size organization, it's much easier to feel the impact that you have to your colleagues, to your customers. You're just closer to it, versus being in an organization with hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of employees. You're one of a lot and it's harder to see and feel, " Am I making a difference?" So I just think that's an interesting context for this showing your emotions at work thing. I eventually had such an impact at FranklinCovey with my results, my sales numbers, that I felt more and more comfortable to share because I knew I was making a difference and I knew that my work mattered. But letting go of the corporate persona, leaders need to go first. So I don't know what kind of standards you were raised with, whether you were just raised with your grandfather's plumbing business where nobody was afraid to tell you if you weren't getting it right, or if you were raised in more of a corporate family setting where there is a little more trepidation about it. But I think doing self- exploration is always the right answer, and that's what we're all about here on this show. Some of the other things I learned when I was researching emotions at work is that studies show that it actually leads to better wellbeing, that we feel better when we can share and show our emotions at work, and that it contributes to an overall more emotionally intelligent workforce when you do that. And that's what people are looking for these days, is a place where they can feel psychologically safe. " Is this a place where my emotions and my mistakes and my fears will be accepted?" And so if we want to create that for the organization which leads to much higher retention, we have to, as leaders, go first. I don't know what that looks like for you, but I highly recommend that it be contextual as I often talk about context because if you just say, " Oh, well, I heard on a podcast this week that I'm supposed to share more of my failures," and completely out of context you show up at the next meeting and you're like, " Let me tell you about all the dumb shit I've done." Probably not going to be helpful. However, if you show up to the next meeting and you're asking people to engage in some strategy or some project, and you share that the reason that this project is important is because of this mistake that was made or this problem that you had with a customer, and because you had that failure, that problem, you're now more invested and passionate about solving it in this way, that's good stuff. That's contextual. If you're helping with employees' development and you care about them as a leader and you sit with them and share with them some problem that you had or mistake that you made in your career to make them feel more comfortable maybe about something that they've done so that they know that everything's going to be all right, that's good context. That's good stuff. One of the other things that I found as I was researching this is that hiding feelings leads to higher stress for ourselves, which ultimately then moves into health problems and poor communication because then we second- guess everything. And you know what? That's a common theme for my clients, is when they have been in a work situation where they were absolutely not allowed to share their feelings and they had really a toxic manager or boss of some sort, and no one was able to even share when things were wrong, now that they're not even in that situation anymore, they still hesitate and aren't sure when it's the appropriate time to share. So if we're going to break this off and allow people to really give real feedback and real information, we've got to make a safe place for that to happen and recognize that people need to be invited, invited, invited, invited in to share their challenges about people and work and process because it's not been something that's been comfortable for them in the past. So you're going to need to share with them on repeat that this is a safe place and that you want and need that in an organization so that you can increase the quality of the communication that exists. I hope there's some helpful little tidbits in there today as I share about my aftermath of being passionate about burnout. There is not one thing that I said last week that I have regrets about because I still feel today that passionately about changing the way that we live and work, and I believe so strongly that our work can actually be the place where we get to experience meaning and purpose on an everyday basis, not at the end of our lives in retirement where all of a sudden we're going to do some great volunteer thing. No, I don't want us to wait. We don't have to wait until the second part of our lives to experience meaning and purpose. I want us to experience it every day of our lives in some way, by the way that we know ourselves and serve others. So, no, no regrets other than just the discomfort of being that, openly passionate about something. I hope there was something in that message last week that lit your heart on fire a little bit to join with me in making huge changes in this age of humanity from the industrial age that we've had in the past. If you want to learn more about regulating our nervous system, which is part of that, I've got to express my emotions thing. My nervous system was just like... And that's going to be a regular part of your life. We have a session coming up on March 7th. There might be a couple of spaces left to learn how to do that with a licensed therapist who will teach you the steps. And as you've heard me say, I'm starting a movement. I am mad about it. I am all about it. And if you want to be a part of this, then message me. I'll send you information. Go to my website, wethrive. live. Put your email address in. You'll hear more about what's happening. I'll do some info sessions where you can ask questions and I'll tell you more of the specifics. Looking like a late April launch. Need to get some of the technology and some of that worked out, but the content's there and I'm excited about it. I can't wait to share it with you. All right, y'all, hope to see you March 8th at Stand Tall in Your Story. By the time this podcast releases, it just may be sold out, so hopefully you got your ticket. If not, check and see. Maybe there's a couple of those left, too. And just know that every time that I hit record on this podcast, it's because I am so passionate about how we live and work and making that better for us and the generations to come. I love you. Mean it. ( singing) Thanks for listening to this episode. I would love it if you would leave a rating and a review on Apple podcasts and then go to wethrive. live. First thing you'll see is a place to drop your email and join the movement. I'll send you tools that you can use to thrive in life and business. ( singing) Hey, y'all, fun fact. If you like the music for the podcast, that is actually my son, Cameron Hession, and I would love it if you would go to Spotify and iTunes and follow him and download some of his other music. My personal favorite is TV Land.
"We feel better when we can share and show our emotions at work; when we do, it contributes to a more emotionally intelligent workforce."
Vulnerability hangovers. We've all experienced them when we go home at the end of the day, and our mind starts re-hashing our conversations, second-guessing our responses. "Was that stupid?" "Wow, I can't believe I would say that."
It turns out that being vulnerable and emotionally open is a good thing. We need to stop shutting down because all signs say showing emotions at work is okay.
In this episode, Rebecca talks about the aftereffects of a recent emotional outpouring that happened to take place on this podcast. Listen in to hear why she has no regrets and learn how leaders can make room for emotions in the workplace.