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Feelings are your power tool for joy in the workplace

Feelings are your power tool for joy in the workplace

A sought-after expert in executive development, group dynamics, and leadership diversity, Melanie Katzman explains how feelings create joy in the workplace.

I wrote a book about emotional skills and connection in the workplace because, frankly, I had a lifetime’s experience counseling outstanding professionals who were struggling at work because they needed to get the emotional side of their professional lives in order.

I’ve been the psychologist in the corner office, conference room, and treatment center for more than 30 years. But I kept running into the same hurdle: My clients walked into my office thinking that success in business requires being rational, and that if you’re emotionally expressive, you’re vulnerable and weak.

The truth is far more complicated – it may even be the inverse. Emotions are at the heart of a professional life. Let’s face it: Organizations are run by people. And people run on emotions. Whether you’re a CEO or a fresh graduate, an office worker or a telecommuter, your feelings supply the energy to fuel the pursuit of profit and purpose.

Emotions don’t make us weak at work. Instead, they are our power tool. And what we need is a professional, practical way of establishing quality relationships – by connecting first as fellow humans, then as coworkers and collaborators.

This shouldn’t be surprising. What’s shocking is how often we forget that our colleagues are people just like us.

Clients seek my counsel when they want to win, and when they need to survive. Sometimes, they become enraged by the “other person” whose motives are unclear and whose reactions make no sense. Bad intentions are assumed, and small slights balloon into career-derailing moments. Top performers quit. Even business owners want to leave the companies they built. All because of the emotional blinders we have on when it comes to our own behavior and the magnifying glass we wield when assessing offenses, we have endured.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In my new book, Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work, I offer a guide to unleash personal capacity, increase organizational effectiveness, and, for those who dare, drive large-scale change.

Many workplace improvement books are written for company leaders. The underlying assumption is that senior management of the organization is responsible for changing the way we work. I take a different view. It’s not the job of the C-suite alone. We all have the power and responsibility to make a difference. In an increasingly automated, technology-driven world, there is an urgent need to stay connected to each other and to our humanity.

Some of my recommendations may seem quite basic. That’s precisely the point. We too often get the “basics” wrong – and suck the enjoyment out of work in the process.

The stakes are high. Today’s speed of communication puts unprecedented pressure on personal conduct. The tiniest acts of disrespect can be transmitted broadly. Insensitive behavior can set off an interpersonal storm in your organization – or worse. By attending to the simple but significant moments between people, you can secure your reputation and experience the beauty of how easily and quickly relationships can be improved.

One way to develop the confidence to cut through organizational clutter is adopting a winning mindset: Know that you have the power to change your world. No matter your role, how you connect with others makes a difference. There are is a lot to this, but it comes down to the following: Focus on ways to make others feel better about themselves (and more informed) because they interacted with you; be generous in praising others; accept that you won’t always be understood immediately; and, always look at shared challenges and disputes from the perspectives of others. All of this can be done in ways both small and large; the key is to do it consistently.

As people pursue connection at work authentically, the results begin to cascade. Time expands and energy grows. It’s addictive and infectious; oxygen fills the room, the mood lightens, and people are drawn to you. You will laugh more and achieve greater results. You will experience joy.

I’m not promoting costly assessments or setting unrealistic expectations. Rather, I’m offering lessons from farmers, factory workers, financiers, company presidents, and the people who serve them lunch.

Ultimately, too many of us veer off track in the rush to get ahead: In a world where we are defined by our titles and positions, we’ve lost the ability to be ourselves. But that skill that can be relearned. I know, because I have successfully taught many of the same lessons over and over and over again.

Changing the world—or your slice of it—is possible. My book is aimed at showing how to do exactly that, one moment, one connection, at a time.

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Feelings are your power tool for joy in the workplace

Melanie Katzman, PhD, is a business psychologist, advisor, and consultant to the world’s top public and private companies, as well as governmental and nonprofit institutions. As the founder of Katzman Consulting, she is a sought-after expert in executive development, group dynamics, and leadership diversity, and has worked with businesses―including Accenture, Bain Consulting, Goldman Sachs, MTV, PwC, and Viacom―in 31 countries. A busy speaker, she is also a founding partner of the global nonprofit Leaders’ Quest. Dr. Katzman has held faculty positions in psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical Center and the University of London and was a senior fellow at Wharton Business School’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. She has been featured in the New York Times, Financial Times, South China Morning Post, Vanity Fair, O Magazine, and on ABC, CBS, and Lifetime.