Do People’s feelings affect organisational culture?
Posted on February 9, 2013
Luis: Whenever I ask people “what do you feel” most people look at me completely bewildered and mutter something like “I don’t know”. Some even may prompt looking totally confused “What kind of question is that”.
I find this very sad but Emotional Intelligence education or even EI training still remains a stranger to the system so whenever the need arises I think what happens is that most people go find their answers in a kind of emotional black market.
David: This may also tell us something about what is “honoured” in business settings. If feelings are not honoured or accepted in a business environment then it makes sense that people suppress their feelings. I remember an experience I had as a teenager in my first job pumpling gas at a service station which taught me that feelings were NOT ok at work. My boss came out and asked me why I was polishing the gas pumps so slowly. I told him that I was distracted because my girlfriend and I had had a bad argument. He told me: “Hudnut, I don’t give a F*&# about your girlfriend or your goddam argument. When you punch in at work I’m paying you to keep this gas station clean and make customers happy. Now get off your butt and get busy or I’ll fire you. You worry about your goddam girlfriend on your own time, not on my time.”
I’ve also worked in companies where the language is “more” educated, but the message remains the same. Emotions? I’m not paying you to be emotional. I’m paying you to get a job done for the least cost and greatest benefit for the company. Your emotions make you inefficient and thus raise my costs.
This really runs counter to all the Emotional Intelligence work that’s been done based on Goleman’s research and publications. In a sense, the message “leave your emotions at home” actually deprives the work environment of any benefits that “emotional intelligence” might provide.
Luis: I agree, David, and I think that feelings and emotions are a big part of Organisational Development work as they affect fundamental aspects of the organisation. Let’s think for instance of change in the organisation.
In my experience of working with organisations one of the keys to successful organisational change is ownership of change. Not taking people’s feelings into consideration equals to disregarding people and imposing. That kind of organisational change will create a great deal of resistance. If change is not embraced by the organisation, whose change is it? Will real change ever happen?
David: You hit the nail on the head for me with your comment “Whose change is it?” If someone wants to drive change by using a power relationship then feelings appear as an obstacle to that person. Feelings are to be “overcome.” And when feelings are viewed as an obstacle then those whose feelings are being ignored will surely oppose the imposed change. On the other hand, what happens when a person has discovered a useful change, something that is new and out of the ordinary? Sometimes these people’s feelings are ignored by those around them and they are ridiculed and considered to be weird or crazy. Does that make the changes that they are suggesting invalid or of no value?
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