July 4, 2022

Dealing with excess emotions in business, a new challenge for managers

While the threat of new measures aimed at stemming the 5th wave of coronavirus looms over France, frontline companies are adjusting, accentuating the use of teleworking, canceling the expected ‘friendly moments’ at the end of the year, the conferences and other seminars. The new national company protocol of December 8 indicates the guidelines, de facto organizing the distance and the vacuum in the premises.

According to the Decider Barometer of December 2021, only 11% of French people say they are optimistic about the recovery of the economy and the end of the crisis. And according to the Malakoff Humanis barometer of December 2021, 41% of employees believe that the crisis had a negative impact on their mental health. All risk being caught today in a negative emotional spiral, linked to the recurrence of the crisis and the feeling of going back despite all the efforts made.

What are the sources of support in order to continue to move forward and keep intact our ability to act and decide on a daily basis? What can be done, individually or collectively in a company, to put emotions in their “right place”, particularly in times of crisis?

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An upsurge in psychological damage among managers

Since the start of the September school year, fatigue has set in. The summer holidays, then those of All Saints’ Day, did not regenerate bodies and minds. Many employees and managers testify to a fatigue that never goes away, and to the need to hold on “because we have always held on”.

The longer and more frequent sick leaves concern young people, managers and women according to the Malakoff Humanis report. Occupational physicians are seeing an upsurge in psychological damage, taking the form of “burn-out” for example, in particular among managers. It is hardly surprising, if we note the implication with which they have struggled to stay in touch with their collaborators, to set up remote work, to make the teams run in “hybrid” mode, to stay engaged and of course achieve the goals.

The premises are now rather empty, since the days of teleworking are added to those of absences for various holidays. Human contact is becoming rare in the office, “there is little heat and no emotion”. “We don’t see many people anymore”, testify some managers, one of the engines of which is to “advance” their teams and gain recognition from them. “When you are not in physical contact with your collaborators, you are not proud of them in the same way. You only focus on the tangible, on the result, without seeing the way they are have gone about it to get there. Sometimes, we even feel disempowered, each operating in his own corner, they no longer need us. ”

Emotions directly affect decision making

The crisis and its necessary management are generating an emotional roller coaster among the population as a whole. But in the professional environment more than elsewhere, emotions remain a taboo subject (emotions = personal problems). Moreover, when the employees are questioned, the majority indicate that “emotions have no place at work”, as if there was an “emotional locker room”, in which it would be necessary to store everything that risks destabilizing the spirits.

However, the emotions, fortunately, cross each one, and are interwoven in the mechanisms of decision-making. As the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio * points out, “the ability to express and feel emotions is essential for the implementation of rational behaviors”. And if the emotions are never good hot advisers, it is they which set in motion as the Latin etymology indicates, motio (action of moving), acting as a complement to rationality.

Currently, anxiety dominates and these so-called negative emotions affect the quality of decision-making by skewing on the one hand the perception of information, and on the other hand by weakening the psyche of the person who must engage them. “It is when I am in good shape, positive, happy that I make a commitment and that I undertake, that I decide. Conversely, negative emotions lead to a withdrawal into oneself, an absence of envy.”

Recognize and regulate emotions to perform better

If one is never “guilty” of feeling an emotion, whatever it is (it is only information), each one remains responsible for what he does with it.

Certain emotional regulation practices have entered business, never really through the front door. Here it is an emotional intelligence seminar that points its nose in a management committee, where we learn to welcome, name and not judge emotions. Elsewhere, it is non-violent communication (NVC), associating an unpleasant emotion with an unmet need, which enables a Comex to improve the quality of discussions and listening in order to make more informed decisions. Elsewhere, it is occupational physicians who are trained in various techniques for regulating emotions.

One of the main principles of these approaches is to accept the emotions and to leave them room, so as to be able to then take a “step aside”. Studies show that a repressed, or unacceptable, emotion builds up, potentially keeping people in a form of “mental chatter” and “autopilot”. Conversely, recognizing, naming, feeling emotions is the starting point for leveraging individual performance but also improving interpersonal relationships. This work on emotions is all the more relevant today in business as emotions are both “raw” and difficult to regulate due to the physical absence of employees in the same workplace. This is an additional challenge for managers, who often admit that they are insufficiently trained on these emotional aspects.

In this time of crisis, emotions interfere with employee motivation and engagement, becoming a concern for managers. ‘I think about it every day’ concedes one of them. This ability to take into account and manage emotions is one of the “soft skills” expected of managers, and the stakes are high in terms of performance. It is also true that the company will not be able to provide all the answers, each one remaining the main actor in its development.

* Author of the book “Descartes’ error”

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