Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Acceptable work emotions

Overheard in the elevator:
"Seriously.. they were waaaay too cheerful. Got to tone it down in the office."
"Someone around here was pleased?"
"Yeah. Really broke my concentration."

I'm not sure if the problem is that there are fewer acceptable emotions to show in a professional setting or that the voltage meter for any emotion is expected to stay in the middle. I'm not even sure when this crept in - possibly with political correctness?  By not truly expressing ourselves with what we're thinking, and naturally extending that to what we're feeling, work has become a grey zone of muted expression.

While I'm not advocating for Snoopy dancing in the hallways or screams of anguish over new assignments, we are human. It's a well-known stress contributor that swallowing emotion (of any kind) contributes to illness and unhappiness. Women especially are coached to 'tone it down.' For those of us who get teary when frustrated (an uncontrollable response), this can be intensely embarrassing and create more anxiety and frustration for us.

It's just as hard for men. I was out with a bunch of guys the other night who pointed out they were never really given a vocabulary for when sad. As one man put it "I have a the ability to express that I am pleased, horny or angry so by default I use one of those."  Another contributed "I punch things when I'm sad because I *think I feel angry about it, get embarrassed when I'm really happy and that makes me angry so I punch something. At work I just pretend I'm above it all."

There's probably no easy answer to relaxing the unspoken taboo about expressing ourselves more honestly. Perhaps the place to start is allowing ourselves to laugh - a good belly laugh when something is funny - since laughter is infectious. Thoughts?

Image result for emotional meter

Monday, September 19, 2016

Enabling or controlling?

There are lots of rules and guidelines out there. Every day we each contribute a few more.. at home, at work, for ourselves and our communities. Beyond examining if our choice is being driven from fear or passion, the next step is to ask if the outcome is best served by something that enables or controls...

We can't have both. We've all been on projects with governance that was not clearly one or the other and folks often were confused as to how to make a decision and what the change really looked like.

So what's the difference?

Control: Be home by 11 pm.
Enable: Default is to be home by 11 pm unless there is prior agreement by both parties on a different time.

First one is finite and sets a clear boundary. Sometimes we need that. Sometimes we hate being treated like children and will push the boundary or ignore it.
Second one allows both parties (parent & child) to enable discussion, negotiation for earlier or later if the default will not work in a given circumstance.

Control: Thou shalt not kill.
Enable: Thou shall love, respect and protect each other.

Again, first one sets a boundary we all feel happier having. But it only eliminates one specific behaviour, leaving loopholes that many have exploited over the centuries. Which created more controls. Which had loopholes....  And it doesn't enable new behaviours in place of the one behaviour denied.

Control: Don't push that red button.
Enable: The following circumstances will require pushing the red button.

Control: Fill out this form on X.
Enable: Ensure X is fully documented.

Control:  I will not eat sugar.
Enable: I will make healthy food choices.

There is a place for controls. (Stop at the stop sign...) And one for enablers. However, their very nature means you must select which tone you need to set for your project, family, self, etc.

I prefer enabling governance (unless I'm Audit...) because people being people would prefer to feel like their judgment matters. Plus, there will always be a loophole; I'd rather it be a discussion than a rebellion.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

two mentoring questions

How will you know, by the end of the week, that you took a step towards something to which you are striving?

How will you acknowledge the step?