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How Sanitizing Managers Produce Weak Results:
Are You One?
Is your workplace a sanitized human environment?
I’m not referring to the ubiquitous canisters of Purell on the walls. I’m metaphorically referencing a cultural environment where the human work engine is scrubbed from discussion or exploration of emotions and feelings in pursuit of the ideal of “professionalism.” “Check your emotions at the door,” is the common managerial mantra. Do you subscribe to this idea? If so, please read on.
This emotionally scrubbed mindset, or belief, produces a flatline response of human performance. The emotionally scrubbed work environment consists of managerial approaches of getting the work done. “You’re paid to do the work.” Technically that’s accurate. Unfortunately, this approach misses the mark in unleashing the very human energy that is necessary for high performance and innovation.
The emotionally scrubbed work environment may show workers showing up at their work stations, but their performance is at best “meeting minimum standards” in order to not get fired. In many cases it demonstrates much of managers’ time caught up in corrective performance and disciplinary sermons coercing the lacking performer to repent or else! The manager’s words and behaviors demonstrate either puffy generic pep talks that do not connect with the performer, or reprimands, demands, and threats. Rarely is there a shift to explore the inner workings (thoughts and feelings) of the performers.
This scrubbed ineffective approach goes on day in and day out producing at best a temporary change, and often leads to increasingly poor performance. These managers miss what seems to them “hidden” levers for increasing performance. The levers that a manager can learn to operate have to do with emotion, values, and motivation. These unseen drivers are inextricably linked. These performance tools are hidden in plain sight inside the individual worker. Because they are hidden inside the worker is the very reason most managers miss it.
Why do managers miss these opportunities? Managers miss it for a variety of reasons, but to keep it simple, they are too focused on themselves and they are afraid of human emotion. Some of my management and leadership trainings are for experienced managers of 5-10+ years of managerial experience. Amazingly, even these “experienced” managers confess to not knowing the diversity of needs of their followers! Where’s their focus? On the work, not the people. One size does NOT fit all.
Human emotion can be a scary thing to consider, especially if you have little understanding of it or Emotional Intelligence. The mindset “check your emotions at the door” is a means to avoid some of the difficult emotions such as anger, rage, hostile, hurt. The sanitized workplace keeps these emotions in check; safety first!
The message received by workers is “I’m here to collect a check. Don’t make waves. Don’t stand out. Cover your assets. Keep your head down.” Not exactly the thoughts high performers use.
Emotionally scrubbed work environments are ineffective because they are first, factually wrong. No one can check their emotions at the door. Emotions are within us 24/7, unless you are a robot. Second, emotions are the very fuel that can ignite motivation when channeled effectively. For example, my anger with one of my reports who mishandled a client that led to the loss of the important client can motivate me to revisit our client retention process and maybe do some needed re-training. Or, my anger with a peer manager instinctively leads me to a cave retreat where I channel the energy and decide to have a courageous conversation with that manager that eventually leads to working more collaboratively. This partly illustrates how to become more Emotionally Intelligent.
I remind you, my reader, that it is the energy of the emotion which is the stimulus to the change in the outcome. Emotions are various movements of physical energy travelling through us. It is not they are good or bad emotions. It depends on what we do with them.
Managers’ fear of emotions limits their ability to understand their workers and miss opportunities to help unleash these powerful energetic flows in a positive direction. Managers who understand emotions can produce a higher level of performance from their direct reports.
One of the first steps for managers living in emotionally sanitized cultures and desire to grow themselves is to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones and choose to become more human themselves. They can accomplish this by first learning and enlarging their emotion/feeling vocabulary. After years of testing, I’ve learned that the average number of emotion/feeling words people can list in 2 minutes is 6-8. I have a list of nearly 80 emotions/feelings. That leaves lots of space for the nuance that emotional intelligence requires.
Understanding the fuller range of human emotion can only benefit the leader who knows how to connect with those various energies that lead to sustained higher performance. Managers: isn’t it time to grow up and learn about this powerful, albeit sometimes scary, human energy that you can unleash for higher performance and even have more fun becoming more fully human yourself?
Emotions/Feelings Wheel - in color! How many of these can you relate to? Click Here
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