Saturday, October 26, 2013

In praise of emotions at work

In the corporate world, the display of emotions, especially the negative ones, is frowned upon. If someone did something that made you angry, or if you simply think they are doing "the wrong thing," you don't tell them anything, unless, well, they are reporting directly to you. On the spot you hide your anger for that person and their decisions and act as if nothing happened. What you do next depends on your power relative to that person. You might have to wait it out and do nothing, which is often the case. Or you might start lobbying against that person behind their back, hoping that someone stronger will tell them off. 

As you hide your emotions and opinions and as a consequence your emotions and opinions end up having no consequence whatsoever, having emotions and opinions ceases to appear rational. You start not caring, and you just do what you are told to do, just for the money and the benefits. You are probably too busy anyway, the next project washes away the remains of any feelings you had just a few days ago, convincing you that they were trivial anyway. Then you become a "resource" in the true sense of the word, not human but simply a means of production. You keep your mouth shut until you rise up high enough in the company. But by then you probably have already acquired and internalized the values of the company anyway, including an impatience for young people's opinions and grievances.

While the job market leaves no option to white collar employees but that kind of existence, I think the companies and their executives lose out, as well. Imagine a simple relationship between two people and how much each person can learn from the other's way of looking at things, their priorities, their values. The way we produce offspring should give people an idea: The product is stronger when it incorporates different opinions, different values, and dare I say, more pieces to the reality of the world, the "truth."

Here's a line from Madonna's song, the Power of Goodbye: "Pain is a warning that something is wrong." Even if you can't do anything about them yet, don't discount or overlook or trivialize your emotions. They are a signal. People may tell you something is not important, but if you think it is important, then it is important. That's the only way you can preserve your character and still have your own opinions and feelings a few years from now. 

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