Part III - Running Your Project
Managing Emotions in the Work Place
As a project manager, you know that emotions are very evident in project teams and that they need to be positive towards the project. However, when such emotions are not very evident, it means the team members are not that interested and are unlikely to do their best towards completing the project successfully. But other types of emotion can also occur for entirely different reasons, such as personality conflicts.
Such conflicts can become very disruptive to the smooth flow of work through the project's timeline. Therefore, dealing effectively with such situations must be a part of every project leader's management skills. Unfortunately, there are few texts on project management that deal with this type of responsibility. Perhaps that is because emotions are part of the human condition. As a result, we deal with them in every interaction, every single day. From work to home to social events, life, and family, our emotions range across many factors.
In the workplace, such as a project team, when expectations are high and resources are running low, emotional outbursts can seem like the norm rather than the exception. Aiming for an "emotion free" business environment, while perhaps a nice thought, is also completely unrealistic. Too many unforeseen events make it impossible to work in an emotionally controlled environment. The secret to success is learning how to manage those emotions, whether you are the project leader or a team member.
For example, perhaps there is a serious difference of opinion on project priorities or how the project should be run. If you are in a position of leadership, you not only have the responsibility to set the tone for others to follow, but to focus the emotional energy for the betterment of the project. This is not always an easy thing to do, especially when negative emotions erupt, while managing the project at the same time. Here are a few ideas to help you navigate the sometimes-messy world of emotions emanating from personalities raging from potential leaders to perennial laggards - not to mention gender and ethnicity.
1. Honesty Goes a Long Way
No one likes to work with Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. If you're honest about your struggles, your team will kick in an extra layer of loyalty and trust because they can relate to you. In fact, it might make them more mindful about creating chaos themselves. It's good to be honest. Try it, you won't be sorry.
This doesn't mean you have to divulge all the little personal details of your life, but being more open about certain things will strengthen the bond of the team. What you are more likely find is a coworker who opens up by says something like: "I often feel that way" or "Let me tell you how I deal with…". Honesty and openness strengthen personal relationships leading to more professional success.
2. Don't Wait for Armageddon
As a leader, go deeper and look for what is triggering an employee's emotional behavior in the first place. This positions you to deal with issues at their root level and provides insight into the "danger zones" to avoid. You will be in a much better position to prevent an outburst by avoiding the boiling point. Don't pretend chaos isn't happening.
Whoever is having a meltdown, help to get their sanity back. The key is to deal with workplace emotions swiftly, but without making the other person feel attacked or threatened. Be clear about what is being criticized and focus on the outcome, not the process of resolving the issue. Where two or more people are involved in the same issues, be careful not to take sides until you know all the necessary facts.
3. The Link Between Gender and Crying
Women are six times more likely than men to cry at work. Tears are the workplace equivalent of a "check engine" sign. It could mean a way of indicating: we are overworked, we are sick, we feel angry, or we are frustrated. Rather than seeing tears as a sign of weakness, they signify that there is an underlying need that should be addressed. Get to work and address it. By the way, men experience emotions too. They just have different ways of expressing and dealing with them.
4. Managing Your Own Emotions at Work
Last but not least, if you are a leader feeling overwhelmed, then take a well-deserved breather. Keep it short, no need to explain, simply say: "You know what, I need a break. I'll be back in 30 minutes." And just like that, take a break. Taking time to focus on your own mental health and wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do for professional success. Neglecting your emotions will have adverse effects. Not only will this step help you tremendously as a leader, it sets an important example for your team that tells them: "It's okay to take care of yourself."
When it comes to emotions in the workplace, leaders have a complex challenge where the ripple effect of any emotional situation, to say nothing of managing new technology, can run deep. This area is seen as an area where great leaders can really set themselves apart by approaching emotions as something healthy for the business. It is believed that these profound social changes, in tandem with the new scientific insights into the ways each gender operates, will transform the future of interpersonal dynamics on the job.
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Thank you Angela for your great advice. I wish I had known a lot of that, long ago. But one case I did solve early on is the issue of the "tough question" you covered in item 5 of Part I. My standard response has been: "Now that is very interesting, I have often thought about that. What would you have done?" (Or "What do you think about it?") In one case my inquisitor collapsed metaphorically in a heap and promptly terminated the interview. And yes, I did get the job.