Emotion: The Dual-Edged Workplace Sword

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about emotion, and how emotion can help – or betray – us in the workplace. Emotion can override the effects of the most finely crafted personal brand, leaving us with our defenses down in challenging moments. And every workplace, every community, serves up plenty of challenging moments, so it’s important to be prepared to control emotions so they don’t undermine our personal brands.

But it’s a tall order.

When we’re thinking and reacting emotionally, we may not have access to the cognitive part of ourselves – the logical, process-oriented thinking that enables us to assess a situation, perceive a set of solutions, and reason our way to a resolution. Think of the last time you were in a performance appraisal and you received a criticism you weren’t expecting (though there should never be any surprises in a performance appraisal, which is a topic for another time.) Chances are you reacted emotionally to the comment, not from within the context of your cognitive self, the heart of your personal brand. As an example of how we can prevent emotion from sideswiping us – and how to use personal brand to recover – let’s think about Max, an accomplished marketing manager whose boss had left the organization and been replaced with someone with whom Max wasn’t entirely comfortable. Max has a strong personal brand. He understands that he has a rather controlling personality – he’s a detail guy – and knows that his skills support the tasks a marketing manager needs to be competent on the job. He’s moderated his natural tendency to be controlling by mastering active listening skills and developing a set of non-work interests that require team skills to ensure success. He manages the emotional stress that is a byproduct of his controlling personality through exercise, meditation and paying close attention to key friendships (social community – another favorite TalentCulture topic.).

Although he had good culture fit with the organization, Max felt off-balance emotionally with his new boss. He caught himself worrying about his next performance appraisal – and to make matters worse a big bonus was attached to a good review. In the weeks leading up to the appraisal he knew he needed a way to control his emotional self so he could achieve his goal – maintain his success and standing at work, build a more productive relationship with his new boss, and secure a good review – and the bonus that went with it.

Max decided it was time to add new skills and tools to his personal brand. He called and I recommended he read the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson et al (do a quick search to learn more.)

I won’t go through the book here – it’s a recommended read – but it gave Max the tools he needed to begin to find ways to initiate and stay in conversations with his new boss that he had been avoiding for fear of emotional landmines. The last time I checked in with him things were going better and he was feeling – there’s emotion again – positive about his relationship with his boss – and his upcoming review.

The lesson here is that we all have emotions, and we can control those emotions by adding skills to our repertoire of coping mechanisms, which in turn strengthens personal brand. It’s always possible to add to and refine personal brand – in fact, it’s part of staying vital, connected and valuable in every job market.

How do you stay connected, in the moment and in charge of your emotions in difficult situations? What tools do you rely on to forge common cause with someone when there’s no obvious connection? And what are the challenges you face maintaining your personal brand? I’d love to hear.


Guest Expert:

Meghan M. Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a globally-recognized expert in talent acquisition, creative personal and corporate branding and new media strategies that accelerate talent acquisition. Meghan’s recruitment, coaching, and branding organization is built on her extensive experience in executive search and talent acquisition for clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to start-ups and mid-size organizations. Her background encompasses over 250 successful searches for clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to start ups and mid-size organizations. These searches range from C-level executives to matches made with recent college graduates, and are driven by her unique fusion of search strategy proficiency and fundamental belief in the importance of corporate culture and candidate personality. A career strategist,Meghan guides her clients to build distinctive corporate, employer and personalbrands-both on and offline.Based in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, TalentCulture partners with clients, corporations and individuals to ensure a match between hiring needs, brand and culture/personality.

Reach at mbiro@talentculture.com
Twitter: @MeghanMBiro, @TalentCulture
LinkedIn:http://www.linkedin.com/in/meghanmbiro

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