New labour pain for industry? p.


The Economic Times on Sunday JUNE 19-25, 2011



Should You Show Emotions at Work?
Blubbering, yelling or even trilling in the office is where personal meets professional. But even as companies are turning more humane, emotional displays are not considered par for course
:: Neha Dewan


cracked,” says Simran Soni, describing the ugly spat with her boss that cost her a job. The former public relations professional had been pulled up for not following up on key information before sending it to a client. “I was good at my work. But my boss couldn’t see beyond my mistakes. That day I couldn’t control my anger,” she says. Soni bluntly accused her boss of making a habit of criticising her work. After the incident, she asked for a change of client account. When that did not happen, she quit. Soni’s reaction was a burst of pent-up emotions. All of us have come close to this precipice: the point when we want to let go. But conventional wisdom advocates restraint. Isn’t it unprofessional to show emotions at work? Yes, if you want to start blubbering, yelling or even singing in joy. But not all emotional display is taboo. Your team leader or the human resources department may be far more tolerant about it than you think. “The important thing is to understand how you can leverage your emotions in a measured manner to address any situation. A display of emotions — if done rationally — is not considered negative,” says Santrupt Misra, director, HR, Aditya Birla Group. “We would be robots without our emotions,” he adds. For instance, crying at work has always been a no-no as it sends out all the wrong signals: lack of restraint, objectivity, hyper-sensitivity, etc. But in these times of high stress, is it completely unforgivable? “People do break down— especially at the time of salary reviews and appraisal sessions when expectations are not met. It is unrealistic to impose controls or judge whether they should cry or not,” says Anuraag Maini, senior vice-president and head HR, DLF Pramerica Life Insurance. The jury is out on where employees should draw the line. No company has an ‘emotional decorum’ policy. You won’t find it mentioned in the induction books either except for the customary warning not to use abusive language. But this doesn’t mean that companies are blind to the need for employees to express themselves freely. Some have put together ‘emotion-vents’ for them to express their angst. LG, for instance, has a choice of three sessions for open communication with


seniors. Their ‘feel-free’ session is a oneon-one that can be initiated by employees at any time of the year. Then there is ‘Friday at 5’ where bosses spend one hour with their team every week. They also have the option of talking to HR on any matter. Says Umesh Dhal, VP-HR and management support, LG Electronics India, “It is not possible to be detached or unemotional. Our code of conduct states that one should be objective. We encourage employees to talk to their bosses or HR heads.” If your emotional outburst affects others in the team, matters can snowball to the extent that HR has to step in. Maini recalls an incident when an employee spoke rudely to a female colleague in a way that showed her down. “We had to talk to them separately and then make them talk to each other,” he adds. The company has monthly town halls where questions can be submitted anonymously. Alternatively, employees can also write to the head of compliance on a matter that needs immediate attention. When nothing else works and employees continue to be high-strung, companies advise them to take a break. “In a couple of cases when employees have lost control, we asked them to go on a holiday. We also try to arrange Art of Living and meditation courses for

them,” says Ashish Kumar, chief HR officer, PVR. It is great when your employer encourages you to go on a vacation, but not for this reason. So though there are no set rules, it is good to avoid an emotional scene. For one, keep baggage about family out of office. If you can’t, come clean to your boss and ask for a few days off or lean work hours. Similarly, if a colleague’s behaviour is bothersome, tackle it before you get too angry and start blustering. Make a habit to wait for a few hours or days before you react to a situation. But try as you might, there will be times when keeping a lid on feelings is difficult. Even when you know it is not acceptable. To avoid such situations, work on your emotional quotient. Says NS Rajan, partner and global leader (people and organisation), Ernst & Young: “It’s more about emotional intelligence. We should spend time understanding ourselves and use the same rationale to understand others. The idea is to channelise emotions in the right way.” Had Soni known this, she might have tackled her nitpicking boss better. And not regret the consequences of her outburst: “If I had been calmer, things would not have gone so out of hand.”

Delay your reactions. Coming back to a situation later is a better idea Communicate with someone outside the organisation to get an unbiased view If you think certain situations or individuals can cause you to get more reactive, try to limit your interactions with them Be empathetic. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It will make you appreciate his/her stand better Try and see what works in a given situation rather than focusing on what is working against you Be objective before you react by analysing your own shortcomings as well Avoid crying publicly. If you feel the urge to cry, excuse yourself

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