This Time It’s Personal – Why You Can’t Separate Business From Emotions

by  Susan Fowler  |  Self Leadership
This Time It’s Personal – Why You Can’t Separate Business From Emotions post image

These days, the business world is filled with trite clichés that have been accepted as fundamental truths about how the world functions.

One of the most egregious of these clichés is the common assertion: It’s not personal, it is just business.

This belief has become increasingly pervasive and has served as justification for many questionable and ineffective business practices. But when it comes down to it, we’re not robots, and we shouldn’t try to be.

Are You Kidding?

As a manager, you deliver information, feedback, or news to an individual that affects his or her work, livelihood, opportunities, status, income, mood, health, and/or well-being. How is this not personal?

On average, employees spend 75% of their waking hours connected to work – getting ready for work, getting to work, working, returning home from work, and decompressing. Oftentimes, employees spend more time interacting with coworkers than family members.

Yet managers believe their actions are not personal and just business? Are you kidding?

Getting At The Root Of The Belief

Trust me, what you say and do feels personal to the people you lead. Therein lies the issue. The new F-word in business, it seems, is feelings. Is this because we hold a belief that expressing feelings does not belong in the workplace? If so, where did this belief come from?

I welcome your opinion. Here is mine:

Feelings are discouraged in business because managers do not have the skill to effectively deal with them. True, some employees do not self-regulate well and may let their emotions get the best of them from time-to-time. But the fear of unruly emotions is disproportionate to the occurrence and severity of emotional outbreaks.

Research shows that even though people judge their work environment both emotionally and cognitively, emotions are the primary determinant of their sense of well-being. As a manager, your actions strongly influence the outcome of an individual’s appraisal process that results in a sense of well-being – or not.

If you do not notice, acknowledge, and deal with a person’s emotions, you may unwittingly be undermining that sense of well-being that is the vital link to a person’s intentions and behavior.

Try This For The Next Month

Instead of holding on to a traditional belief that potentially undermines people’s motivation, listen to your heart and acknowledge the crucial role that feelings play in work and life.

Try changing that traditional belief to an optimal motivation belief: If it is business, it must be personal.

Watch how your leadership changes as your belief changes. Then notice the positive affect your changed belief has on those you lead.

How have you seen a change in your belief, positive or negative, impact those around you?

About The Author

Articles By susan-fowler
Susan educates leaders on motivation best practices based on solid science communicated through compelling storytelling, case studies, and real-life examples.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Chery Gegelman  |  09 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Susan – I love this post! Especially everything under the headline of “Are you kidding?”

You are preachig to the choir!

Paula Kiger  |  09 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Great post, Susan! It makes me think of the book “Encouraging the Heart.” I think leaders sometimes find it difficult to wrap their heads around the parts of “feelings” that don’t (in black and white) contribute to the bottom line. That makes it easier to try to have a workplace with blinders on about employees’ emotional lives. As you said, that can be detrimental in the long run.

Geeta  |  09 Oct 2014  |  Reply

You have described it perfectly. Leaders with feelings and empathy are termed as weak and sentimental while the dispassionate “use ’em and leave ’em” ones are considered dynamic and given higher positions. Why are we scared of emotions? Absolutely loved reading this post!

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