Are workplace emotions still taboo

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Are workplace emotions still taboo? 

The study of emotions is not new and for a long time were seen as passions that get in the way of reason, so workplace emotions are still generally seen as demons to be overcome.

In the corporate world, staff, managers and CEOs alike are expected to be serious and in complete control of their feelings. Showing emotion is still considered a sign of weakness, so we are taught to repress our emotions and stay strong under pressure or stress. Some executives have management mantras like – don’t get emotional


But what are emotions and how can we better understand them?

The term emotion derives from the Latin ‘emovere’ meaning ‘to move out’ and is explained as an impulse triggered by stimuli that leads us to respond by behaving in a certain way. The stimuli can either be internal or external from our environment or other people.

An emotion is made up of five components:

  • A cognitive appraisal of the situation
  • Bodily symptoms – the physiological component
  • Action tendencies
  • Changes in expression and behavior
  • Feelings – the subjective experience

Therefore, an emotion can be explained as an individual’s psychological and physiological reaction to a given situation which:

  • Initially manifests itself internally and subsequently generates an outward reaction
  • Is the result of being confronted with a given situation and the way the individual interprets it:
      • In relation to their objectives
      • In relation to their fundamental beliefs and values


Let’s encourage managers to express their emotions

Workplace emotions are still generally seen as demons to be overcome and even with society trying to remove gender stereotypes, the old saying ‘boys don’t cry’ can still be heard today both in the playground and the boardroom.

We know that some middle and senior managers rely heavily on anger as part of their management style. This particular emotion is surprisingly well tolerated in some companies and is sometimes perceived as the only emotion to show strength and control.

Fortunately, more recently some schools of psychological thought have begun to encourage managers to express their emotions rather than suppress them. For example with Non-Violent Communication (NVC), a number of management training courses and our latest workshop kit encourages participants to use NVC. It is thought to help identify the needs behind the emotions and find a way to meet them.

And as NVC is all about finding a peaceful and compassionate way of relating to others and therefore manage conflicts, the concept of understanding emotions can play a crucial role in the legitimization of workplace emotions as it facilitates efficiency and performance.

Further reading:

American Psychologist and pioneer in the study of emotions Paul Ekman, studied facial expressions in a variety of cultures to identify six basic or primary universal emotions. In reality, we know there are of course an almost infinite number of micro-expressions and myriad of other emotions stemming from the basic six identified by Paul Ekman.

Some can be combinations or variations, so for this reason Robert Plutchick categorized emotions on his ‘wheel of emotions’ and we look at this in more detail in both our coaching emotional intelligence ebook and new ‘understanding our emotions’ workshop kit.

Many of us struggle to understand our emotions, yet we know why emotions are so important:

  • Emotion as a source of information – Emotions conveys a message and will generate a certain behavior
  • Emotion that facilitates action – Emotions can facilitate certain types of behavior and inhibit others
  • Emotion as an aid to decision-making – An unexpected emotional competence where decision-making is highly influenced by emotions
  • Emotion as an essential tool for adapting, evolving and learning – Emotions can be like the conductor of an orchestra in humans

To help you grow your knowledge and understanding of emotions, we have created a full workshop kit that includes everything you need to run a successful workshop and help your clients understand their emotions. Check it out in the online shop:

Kit : Understanding emotions workshop – Use this kit to confidently deliver an interactive half-day understanding our emotions workshop. It will support discussions that help your clients understand the full range of emotions and how to identify and understand them.


We constantly add content to the site, so please check our on-line shop and look at the full range of games, ebooks and kits. Or read some of the other blog posts written by our team of international coaches.


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