Emotions in the Workplace – A Frenemy


You feel the deadline coming up, but you still haven’t been able to get over your writer’s block. You’re just waiting for that one moment where you’ll immediately think of something, but as you wait, the due date is right around the corner. Anxiety. Dread. Frustration. 

That deadline gets moved. Excitement. Relief.

You have been working nonstop on a project with your coworker for the past 2 months, only for your coworker to get all the credit, again… Anger. Frustration. Hurt. 

Contrary to popular belief, emotions are everywhere in the workplace. In their book ‘No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work’, Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy stress the importance of embracing emotions rather than suppressing them in the professional environment. They touch on the importance of emotional intelligence and its contribution to rationality in your actions, rather than hindering it as widely thought.

“What we’re really talking about is what to do when you have a strong feeling,” Fosslien stated in an interview with NPR, “It’s more about admitting that we are emotional creatures and we’re going to feel feelings, whether we’re at work, at home, and figuring out the need behind those emotions, what we should do next.” 

Fosslien and Duffy classified emotions into two groups; relevant and irrelevant; as a means to help one decide which emotions should be paid attention to and harnessed. 

You’ve been in the same position for about a year, but have been fully dedicated to the company. You find yourself in a dilemma; should you ask for a promotion or not? The latter choice fills you with dread. This is a relevant emotion, as not asking for that promotion will fill you with more dread by the minute, and impact your job performance and satisfaction. The emotion speaks directly to your decision. 

You were running late, and now on your way to work, you get stuck in morning traffic on the highway for half an hour. You feel irritated and hungry, and are thinking of the person you should be interviewing in ten minutes. These emotions on the other hand are deemed as irrelevant, in the sense that they should not come in the way of your decision-making, and if they do, they will cloud your judgment. Interviewing someone when you’re feeling ‘hangry’ surely isn’t ideal. 

Thus, by distinguishing between the two types of emotions, and identifying whether what you’re feeling is relevant or irrelevant, you will find yourself harnessing your emotions in the workplace in no time, rationalising your decisions and actions. 

It is worth noting that their view on the power of harnessing emotions in the workplace is rather intriguing as it compliments yet expands on the older Affective Events Theory proposed in 1996 by researchers Howard Weiss and Russell Cropanzano. The theory studied the effect of several different types of emotions; anger, fear, joy, love, sadness, and surprise, and argued that employees react emotionally to events that occur at work, and this reaction influences their job performance and satisfaction. Thus, what Fosslien and Duffy proposed by categorising emotions builds upon this theory, as it is up to you to decide what emotions you should allow to affect your decisions and actions in order to positively influence your job performance and satisfaction. 

Works Cited

Keane, Meghan. (2019). https://www.npr.org/2019/11/21/781673489/how-to-harness-the-power-of-emotions-in-the-workplace 

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