Feelings at work – the bottom line

August 24, 2011

I have been re-reading the literature on positivity and emotional intelligence recently and can’t seem to finish a page without muttering to myself.  I’m all for tools that allow us to have a conversation about feelings and emotions but when the bottom line in business means that emotion has to be quantified in the same terms then it’s a sad day all around.   The relentless quest for optimism and positive feelings is going to disappoint – primarily because it’s a fantasy. Of course it’s possible to feel happy at work and about work – but you can’t manufacture those feelings on demand, and if you don’t pay attention to the alternatives* then there’s a swathe of organizational learning simply lying idle.

* as an aside another of my ‘issues’ is with the division of emotions and feelings into good and bad – who gets to decide what’s good and what’s bad? I happen to believe that anger (one of those very bad feelings) is completely appropriate if someone is being bullied.  I also believe that too much ‘happiness’ (one of the very good feelings) can very often be a mask for unreported feelings that may be acceptable in social situations – ever laughed at a funeral for instance?

I digress…but suffice it to say that the whole arena of feelings and emotions at work (and they are not the same even though the terms are used interchangeably in the literature) is riven with unexamined assumptions and moral agendas…I shall return to this topic again…and again…

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