Why do we need to Talk about Feelings in the Workplace


I want you to picture this: you’re a team lead at a successful firm, and you manage a team of 8 or 10 employees. You come in early on a Tuesday morning to find one of your employees already there, but visibly upset at her desk?  There’s no one else around – just the two of you.

Do you ask her what’s wrong, or do you say good morning and walk to your office with the understanding that whatever is going on, is her business – not yours?

Before you answer, I want to give you a couple things to think about.

As elementary as this sounds, we all have feelings. And we’re adult enough to know that we’re in trouble the longer we deny or hold back our opinions or feelings.

The truth of the matter is that we’re more personally engaged and invested in the work we do. If we weren’t, we would stop asking “What do you do?” as the opening question at dinner.

More than ever, the whole person comes to work – the work side and the life side.  Work issues effect life; life issues effect work.

If we only know the work side of a person versus the life side, we’re missing out on half her value, motivation, engagement – impact.  

I’m not suggesting that you need to be both manager and psychotherapist, but you do need to understand that the whole person comes to work, and your role is to deal with the whole person – versus avoiding an entire other half of their life.

Also, keep in mind that when you choose not to deal with it, when you choose to go to your office versus ask, you’re sending a message that you don’t want to deal with it. And that is the beginning of building a wall between you and that employee. A wall in which neither trust not communication will ever get through.

Great coaches work in both of those spaces – work and life. They understand that you can’t build trust and communication if you don’t know the whole person. And sometimes getting to know the whole person can be uncomfortable.  

You don’t have to solve their problem. You just have to listen. You have to open that door. You have to do something to build and retain that trust and to show you respect them as a whole person – work and life.

Now, think back to the example I posed at the beginning of this session. Do you ask her what’s wrong or do you go to your office, avoiding the situation?

Here’s a better question – if you go to your office, does she feel comfortable and safe coming to you to explain the situation?

Managers – are you willing to have your people be open with you? Are you willing to create an environment where people will want to talk to you about work and life?

People need people who believe in them. And that transgresses life and work.