From time to time, an executive will come to us saying that they are working to create an environment of logic and reason but despite their best efforts they are failing. Unfortunately, the fact that they are failing makes sense. Business is and always will be an enterprise where feelings and emotions are a central part of the environment because of the simple fact that businesses are made up of people. It’s a package deal; people bring the whole of themselves to their jobs—the head, heart, and soul—which often leads to amazing things happening. Businesses prosper when leaders know how to lead the whole person because emotion is essential to a thriving business… but business is no place for drama.
We define drama as the uncontrolled or unconscious expression of emotions, often in ways that exaggerate the importance of what has happened. Drama is the antithesis of healthy emotional expression; it’s the seeping of emotions into the workplace through covert means as a result of people not believing they have been heard or understood at an emotional level. Drama gets expressed in many ways. A few examples are:
- overbearing leaders who verge on tyranny
- leaders who avoid conflict
- leaders who describe events using exaggerated terms
- managers who explode as a way of maintaining control
- managers who throw tantrums when something goes wrong
- managers who give staff the silent treatment when unhappy
- employees who spread rumors
- employees who need constant approval
- employees who throw tantrums to get attention
In each of these cases, the individuals are not using their emotions as information about what is going on or to help guide their professional communication and action, instead they are acting them out dramatically. Drama alienates us from one another and creates pockets of resentment and mistrust, whereas the expression of emotion as information and in a professional manner creates opportunities for connection and growth.
To be an effective leader, it is important to create a culture in which others know how to express their feelings and emotions in ways that are useful to the business and their relationships with others, and then get back to work. Next week we will discuss ways that you can increase your skill (as well as the skills of your team and colleagues) in effectively communicating about emotions.