What’s better: being a boss that expresses and demonstrates their emotions, or being a cool, calculating, emotionless machine? Many might think that the latter is better. After all, the buzzwords of the last decade have been “big data” and “analytics” and “business intelligence”. We’ve spent the better part of the new millennium trying to automate, computerize and systematize everything – shouldn’t your management philosophy be trying to make you into an efficient business machine?
Fortunately, research in both psychology and sociology, along with hundreds of case studies and business results from all over the world, disagree. In fact, a manager known for expressing feelings is likely to be a better manager than one that shuts things away and approaches work as a machine. Expressing your feelings can improve your performance as a manager in a lot of ways, from boosting morale to improving your communication abilities.
1. Engender Empathy In Your Employees
We’ve spoken at length about the importance of empathy – how it can help inspire and make you a better communicator – in a previous article here. We’ve also mentioned that empathy can be taught, or otherwise encouraged. By expressing your feelings, in a work appropriate way, you can raise the amount of empathy that your employees feel for you by making it easier for them to understand how you feel and why you feel that way.
For example, many people inaccurately think that showing emotion is about displaying intimate feelings instead of emotions that are common at work such as anxiety, concern, or worry. Communicating these emotions to colleagues can improve both communication to and from employees and subordinates, and it can also help build stronger relationships between team members on projects.
2. Improve Understanding
It can seem like a chore to have to explain yourself and your motivations to your staff. However, studies have shown that employees who understand why decisions are being made are much more likely to agree with and respect those decisions. Walking your employees through not just the rational, but the emotional reasons behind a decision can go a long way to bringing them on board with that decision.
Think, for example, about the last time one of your employees fell behind on a project or assignment schedule. It’s easy to go in and berate that employee for missing deadlines. However, that could cause resentment or indifference, since the employee might not understand why you are so upset. Instead, explain that you are concerned that the missed deadlines might cascade into further setbacks. Let the employee know your worries about this possibly reflecting badly on your entire department. Express your disappointment in an employee that has failed to live up to your expectations. All of these are emotions that can be expressed to give employees an idea of why you are upset, and can make them more likely to understand and respond positively to your suggestions and criticisms.
3. Make Employees Feel Valuable
It can be easy to fall into the trap of treating every employee as if they were replaceable. Expressing your feelings in conversations, whether in small talk or when assigning duties or projects, can give your employees the reasurement that they are not only valued for their skills, but as human beings. This sense of being valued can in turn make your employees value you and your company, and can lead them to work harder and with more determination.
Telling an employee that they finished a project on time or contributed positively to a meeting is good. Letting them know that they made you happy or proud can go even further, because it creates a human bond between yourself and your employee that is far deeper than the typical boss/worker relationship.
4. Lets Small Problems Surface Before They Turn Into Big Problems
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve had to bite your tongue for prolonged periods of time, you know that clamping up and pushing down your feelings can make them grow and fester. Expressing feelings in the workplace in a timely, effective, and work-appropriate manner can help you identify and resolve conflicts while they are still manageable. Conversely, letting your feelings simmer under the surface can lead to the kinds of outbursts that make for terrified office whispers and poor leadership decisions.
If an employee is under-performing, for example, you can express your disappointment in them early on. You can let them know that you know they are capable of performing better, and tell them it would make you happy to see them reach their full potential. Ignoring this problem, on the other hand, can eventually lead to a big blow-up and firing the employee in a situation where some early intervention could have corrected the issue. Somewhat negative emotions like concern, worry, and disappointment can transform into VERY negative emotions like fear, anger, and hatred if they are not properly addressed and examined early on. Having an emotionally expressive conversation with an employee or a manager is far preferable to letting it fester and turn into a shouting match.
5. Creates A Model For Your Employees
Ultimately, perhaps the most important job of any manager is to model the kind of behavior she expects in her employees. So, by learning how to properly and effectively express feelings in the workplace, you create a model for your employees to follow. Not only does doing so confer the benefits we’ve mentioned here on you, it will encourage your employees to be better about expressing feelings and confer these benefits on them as well.