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The “Weight” of Emotions at Work

Over time, the working context has been marked by principles such as rationality, organization, precision, punctuality, coldness, and control of personal experiences and productivity. All aspects that leave little room for the emotions that are often seen as an obstacle to good working conduct and business success.

The question to ask is whether the emotional experience is a limit or a resource in the business context.

Although today many production activities are entrusted to machines, most of the work is carried out by people who as such experience emotions that cannot be denied. In fact, during the course of work, many negative and positive feelings can arise. [Just to give some more recurring examples, the fear of making a mistake or losing one’s job, the anger for lack of involvement in the choices of superiors or for misunderstanding, dissatisfaction with oneself or with the results achieved, sadness with respect to low cooperation or the failure to fulfill personal and non-personal expectations, the enthusiasm for success or for a good inclusion and the satisfaction of one’s actions and relationships].

In any case, the managerial and social tendency is not to pay attention to the employees’ experiences by ignoring (or pretending to ignore) that it influences, in a very important way, their working conduct, for better or for worse.

Emotions influence the way we act, think, relate to others, relate to, and experience the environment, challenges, requests, and expectations.

Even the apparently less emotional person has to deal with his own experience, perhaps not consciously. It is the human side of companies, which cannot be completely controlled but which requires attention and care, especially to reduce that share of suffering that is often present at work.

Many types of research show that positive experiences in the job contest increase not only the well-being of workers and the company but also motivation, involvement, concentration, creativity, empowerment, and productivity. This applies both to the individual worker and to a group of collaborators.

On the contrary, a negative climate based solely on rationalization and the achievement of objectives at all costs, where emotions cannot find space, reduce well-being by increasing the costs for illness and accidents, lower productivity and the sense of belonging to the company, discourage free initiative, innovation and cooperation between colleagues and with superiors.

Change management processes often fail precisely because they are deaf to hearing and managing the human component, which in its intensity can slow down the best business systems.

If we can look at individual and corporate emotions as a resource – as a source of understanding of what is happening to people and to the group – the perspective changes substantially.

Frankly, I would say that it is practically impossible to divide one’s emotions in the work context. We might as well manage them – and well – so that they become a real resource for ourselves and for the work team with which we interface every day.

They should develop empathy and openness to relationships and comparisons, which allow for deep and sincere contact with workers.

Considering the role of emotions in the conduct of workers, leaders should contemplate them in company choices and policies and set up contexts and relationships that give the tools to manage and use them to the fullest. They should develop empathy and openness to relationships and comparisons, which allow for deep and sincere contact with workers. The aim should be to create an environment in which the worker can experience involvement, safety, cooperation and have the opportunity to express opinions, criticism, creativity, finding in the other understanding and willingness to dialogue. The worker must feel capable of acting and free to express their competence, experiencing satisfaction, recognition, and constructive criticism that improve the quality and quantity of the service.

To answer the initial question, therefore, we could conclude that emotions, positive or negative, can be a limit if not correctly understood, managed and integrated into the work, but they can become a resource if you create a business climate capable of giving voice to the individuality of everyone in the group and allow the development of a good level of emotional intelligence in the individual, starting with the leader.

Acting from a preventive perspective by understanding individual or group discontent or difficulties allows you to lower the risks of breakdown, the onset of stress, and burnout.

The ability to dialogue with emotions represents a fundamental cognitive value because what we feel does not inform us about what we see but about the way we look at things. The ability to recognize emotional experiences and make sense of them, therefore, helps to understand situations, overcome obstacles by releasing positive energy in one’s work environment.

To transform emotions into allies, it is necessary to recognize that in every context emotions are at stake and will be even more so in situations of change, evolution, challenge.

Given this assumption, it becomes strategic for companies to develop an emotional culture in people, particularly in the HR field, to better manage a crucial component too often left to the “common sense” of individuals. In practice, it means enhancing the ability to listen and understand, in relation to business circumstances, of collaborators, colleagues, customers, and partners of the company.

The advantages will be an improvement in relationships between people, greater access, by the individual and the group, to their resources to deal with problems, an increase in the level of overall well-being, and commitment to a “humanized” organization.

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Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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