When is it okay to be emotional at work? The short answer is never but the slightly longer answer has a few maybes. It is always okay to be kind and courteous but even this can go too far if it encroaches on another person’s physical or emotional space at work. It is also okay to be empathetic, if someone else shares something with you, if you are aware of a personal or difficult situation, and if the person wants that empathy. Otherwise, keep your emotions in your pocket and don’t wear them on your sleeve at work.
You can call me a curmudgeon if you want and you may even be right, but I think that there is a great case to be made for leaving your emotions at home when you head off to work. Yes we will all have challenging times in our lives outside of work that we cannot help but bring with us in our lunch bag. And everyone understands when there is a death in a family or a serous illness, or even the changes that a positive event like a new baby can bring. But you still have an obligation to come to work, do a decent job, and not bleed over everybody else.
In addition to the emotional toil that our personal lives take on us there is also the stress, anxiety, and sometimes anger that arises as a direct result of our work or workplace. Even then you have to find a way to manage the stress in a non-toxic way and deal with your anxiety in a manner that doesn’t cause problems or more anxiety for the people around you. What about anger? Doesn’t everybody get angry at work sometimes?
Yes, we all may get angry at work. The question is how does that anger manifest itself and who is that anger directed against? Anger is one of the most powerful emotions known to man or woman and it has the power to really hurt or damage individuals and the people around them. A short angry outburst on an occasional basis isn’t too much cause for concern but temper tantrums, yelling obscenities, or any form of threatening behaviour has no place in the workplace, ever. No can anger that is directed at co-workers, managers or clients be tolerated. Ever.
Anger is the dark side of emotions and it must be managed by individuals, and their supervisors if necessary. But the other emotions can be just as taxing in the long run. A workplace is an adult experience and all those who enter there should be prepared to act as adults, not just mentally and physically, but emotionally as well.
Mike Martin is a freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant. He is also the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People)