Emotion, at work

The human condition is a weird and wonderful thing. A brain with some of the most complex connections, chemicals, energies and all sorts helping our body function in ways which are perfectly logical when you understand the human system, and at the same time when something unusual happens it can discombobulate us totally and utterly. In most of what we do, we often take for granted that most of us are able bodied, able minded, and able just generally. We get on and do the things we want to do and need to do.

It’s very rare we look to understand our emotional health. We’ll take the time to understand physical health, some of us may need to take care of our mental health, most of us will try and manage our financial health, and many of us just remain oblivious to our emotional health. It’s just not something we discuss that well.

I don’t believe there’s a male/female thing at play. It’s down to several things at play:

What language do we use?

How do we help others understand that we’re experiencing something emotional and that it needs to be expressed and articulated? How do we learn the language of emotions to create better relationships? How do we learn how to share our emotional health so that others can better understand our thinking and frame of mind? What happens when we try to express and articulate our emotions but it comes out in unintended ways that have a negative effect and affect? How do we manage our emotional health when we feel that everything is either going well, is plodding along, or is falling down all around us?

Who do we discuss emotions with?

Most people might think they can talk to their partners about such things. That’s a sensible assumption, but one that needs care. Does your partner recognise your emotional health and how it can change? When it changes, do they know what that means and how to either support you or experience it with you? What about our friends? Siblings? Work colleagues? What do those different groups of people understand about our emotional health? Are you allowed to discuss it with them? What do they do that either supports you or allows them to experience it with you?

How acceptable is it to express emotion at work?

The workplace tends to be a place that people traditionally think of where the environment is such that you have to be professional and this equates to leaving your emotions at the entrance. Except, we are none of us able to do that. Our emotions are a fundamental part of our being. They can make us do rational and irrational things and often without us having any control over them.

Does your manager know what your emotional health is like? What about your work colleagues? What would happen if you were to share your emotional state? How might people respond to you? What kind of working environment might that create? Would you feel supported? Vulnerable? Exposed? Trusted? Appreciated?

What are emotions actually for?

Many of us know and understand that our emotions are part of what makes us human, and our expression of them is just another unique factor of being human. But do we understand what they’re actually for? I mean, everything about the human condition serves a purpose, so what purpose do our emotions serve us? Would it surprise you to learn that our emotions serve multiple purposes? Ranging from self-protection to relationship building to preparing the body for action to creating connections with others – our emotions are a fundamental essence of being human. Yet, most of us just give them a cursory acknowledgement of existence.

I personally find the topic incredibly fascinating. The insights that we’ve gained through empirical research, investigation and philosophy helps us understand so much more about how we can understand our emotions better, understand how to experience them, understand how to articulate them and understand how to work with our emotions and not control them. There’s an event on Thursday 9th June (2016)  which is going to help explore this topic, and I highly recommend it. (I don’t get a kickback for promoting it, just bonus universe points.)


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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