“There are no gains without pains.”
Be relieved that I used a graphic to illustrate this and not a picture of me exercising. Some gains are not worth the pain;).
Well, this is a fairly well-known saying, partly due to its paraphrased adoption by a commercial interest not named here. I have heard folks at the gym and on the running circuit repeat this with a somewhat reverent tone too many times to count.
They have “drank the Kool-aid” about the idea of needing to experience pain to do something.
In my past life as a therapist, I know that this dictum holds true. When we have emotional or psychological issues, but resist experiencing the associated pain, we cannot grow past those issues. “Stuffing” our feelings usually only leads to continued pain, no resolution of issues or problems, and sometimes we are completely overwhelmed by what we are seeking to avoid.
At work, we are often subjected to situations where honest and sharp emotional responses are in order, but not allowed.
Change often involves pain, in the form of grieving the loss of what was known and the fear and excitement of embracing the new. Relationships at work, especially those which involve a power differential, create a unique type of pain. Shattered expectations for advancement, promotion, salary increases, and even just basic job security, generate multiple emotional responses.
I was told as a young manager to “Leave your feelings at home.” I was expected to work and perform, without displaying any of the emotions which make me fully human. I was also expected to instill this idea in those I managed.
After a little more experience, I have come to the point where I believe we do ourselves a great disservice by not adopting the “pain for gain” idea in the workplace. No, I am not talking about the pain of the masses for the gain of the few. I had something a little more egalitarian in mind.
1) We want everyone to be engaged, but we do not want to “mess with” emotional responses.
Then we wonder why the enthusiasm for a new initiative or change is less than ideal. If we expect people to display the more positive emotions at work, we have to be prepared for them to have the less positive ones as well.
Emotions are windows through which we display our personalities. Asking people to only show the positive parts does not support honest communication or conflict resolution.
How can we as leaders become more comfortable with a fuller display of emotions at work?
2) We expect emotional responses to be proper to the occasion, as determined by us and our perceptions of the situation.
We may be excited by a pending change, because we already know or hope that it will benefit us personally. We do not always consider how that same change appears to others.
Our perceptions do create our realities, but our realities are not other’s realities … and neither’s realities are the truth.
How can we recognize when we in our leadership role are placing our “realities” on others?
3) We respond poorly to emotional displays and attempt to control or even “outlaw” them.
People, as a general rule, are uncomfortable with painful emotions, in themselves and even more so in others. When we uncomfortable, one immediate response is to stifle what makes us uncomfortable. The reality that this does not address the underlying issues becomes secondary to not feeling pain or discomfort.
How do we as leaders become more comfortable with our own and other’s emotions?
As leaders, we may communicate the attitude that I was taught, that emotions have no place in the workplace. Maybe we need to communicate a different message.
As managers, we need to use our communication and collaboration skills to make the workplace flow smoothly and effectively.
A dammed-up river does not flow, but sometimes the dam bursts.
Let’s put more energy into helping the river flow than into plans for damage control.
Trying to get into the flow in the Heartland ….