'/> Melinda Guillemette - Melinda Motivates

The Whole Human

April 24th 2014

Let's say you have an employee struggling with alcoholism; or maybe one who’s in the middle of a divorce. Perhaps one of your partners is coping with a critically ill child. Maybe something equally destabilizing is happening to you.

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These and other emotional scenarios are common. It’s strange to me that we all seem to know this, yet we often respond precisely the wrong way to negative life-changing events. If it’s happening to us, we tell ourselves to suck it up, to be strong at work, that we can only fall apart at home. If it’s happening to someone else, all too often we ignore it. We dance around it, talk about something else, stick to business. Anything to avoid dealing with the pain.

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I once worked with an executive who told me this: “Look, I can’t be responsible for what’s going on in my employees’ lives outside of work. When they come in here, they need to be ready to work. They need to leave their personal stuff at home.” Frankly, I felt as sorry for him as I did for his team members.

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Why do we do this? It could be because men used to run the business world and were taught that emotion equals weakness. And women who are now leaders in business learned to mimic male behavior. Here’s the result:

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  • A leader’s bias that emotions are a weakness leach into the culture of the firm, either intentionally or unconsciously.
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  • People clamp down on their own feelings for fear of being seen as weak.
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  • Because emotions have a way of seeping out, those who are dealing with difficulty act out in all kinds of inappropriate ways.
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The lost productivity that occurs when emotions are suppressed is the most obvious result. More important, treating emotions as a weakness means that members of your team suffer alone. While some might go to a colleague for comfort, many others will hide in a bathroom stall or in their offices while they try to pull themselves together. That kind of isolation is the direct result of our failure to recognize the power of emotions at work. It’s just not useful. 

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We can do better. Very often, these people would benefit from your help. Yes, you. They could use your perspective, your experience, and your kindness in their moments of great difficulty. It’s possible that you might speed their healing if you would just acknowledge their pain in a way that didn’t make them feel like complete losers.

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Believing we are responsible for employees only at certain hours of the day flies in the face of what a team truly is. We are whole people living whole lives and encountering big challenges along the way. We’re all human, we’re all in this together, and we’re all responsible for each other. Every day. We owe this to ourselves.

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How different would your firm be if you, the leader, created a culture that allowed the whole human being to walk in the door? If you, the leader, set the pace for emotional intelligence by offering your own heart, your own counsel, your own shoulder for a team member to cry on? 

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An even bigger question: How different would you be?

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leadership, professional development, love, management, communication

Comments



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Joey
05/12/2014 12:33pm
Years ago I went through a divorce while I was working in the family business. I was a young kid and my world was just falling to pieces in a new way every day. My productivity went to hell in a hand basket. I know there were whole afternoons when I just stared at a screen and got nothing done.\r\n\r\nEveryone knew I wasn't going to get fired for this. My family had seen previous employees through life threatening illness, terminal disease and innumerable problems at home. I wasn't going to miss a paycheck. But it would have been nice to let the emotional genie out of the bottle at work, to hear someone say "we know you aren't going to get crap done today, but it's important to us that you keep coming in, keep staring at that screen and do your best to put one foot in front of the other. We want you to do that and we'll help by shouldering some of the load until you get back on your feet."\r\n\r\nToo often we think we can alter reality by ignoring it. This is a great post because it reminds us that sticking our head in the sand isn't leadership at its best.
Matt Freeland
05/06/2014 6:56am
Thanks for the reminder! How can we call ourselves a team if we don't support one another?
Michael Wall
04/25/2014 3:39pm
If we allowed our team and ourselves to walk in as full human beings, our organizations would be much healthier and effective at serving our customers.\r\n\r\nStay tall.
Lyne Noella
04/25/2014 9:04am
This is great--thanks for helping professional service providers gain a better understanding on how to manage effectively!
Patricia Luchs
04/25/2014 7:12am
nicely done!\r\n
Bob Sattin
04/25/2014 6:19am
Very well presented. Your own emotion and passion for your point came through clearly and had impact on me.