Emotional Terrors in the Workplace

Emotional Terrors in the Workplace

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Reasonable variations of human emotions are expected at the workplace. People have feelings. Emotions that accumulate, collect force, expand in volume and begin to spin are another matter entirely. Spinning emotions can become as unmanageable as a tornado, and in the workplace they can cause just as much damage in terms of human distress and economic disruption.All people have emotions. Normal people and abnormal people have emotions. Emotions happen at home and at work. So, understanding how individuals or groups respond emotionally in a business situation is important in order to have a complete perspective of human beings in a business function. Different people have different sets of emotions. Some people let emotions roll off their back like water off a duck. Other people swallow emotions and hold them in until they become toxic waste that needs a disposal site. Some have small simple feelings and others have large, complicated emotions. Stresses of life tickle our emotions or act as fuses in a time bomb. Stress triggers emotion. Extreme stress complicates the wide range of varying emotional responses. Work is a stressor. Sometimes work is an extreme stressor.Since everyone has emotion, it is important to know what kinds of emotion are regular and what kinds are irregular, abnormal, or damaging within the business environment. To build a strong, well-grounded, value-added set of references for professional discussions and planning for Emotional Continuity Management a manager needs to know at least the basics about human emotion. Advanced knowledge is preferable.Emotional Continuity Management planning for emotions that come from the stress caused by changes inside business, from small adjustments to catastrophic upheavals, requires knowing emotional and humanity-based needs and functions of people and not just technology and performance data. Emergency and Disaster Continuity planners sometimes posit the questions, ?What if during a disaster your computer is working, but no one shows up to use it? What if no one is working the computer because they are terrified to show up to a worksite devastated by an earthquake or bombing and they stay home to care for their children?? The Emotional Continuity Manager asks, ?What if no one is coming or no one is producing even if they are at the site because they are grieving or anticipating the next wave of danger? What happens if employees are engaged in emotional combat with another employee through gossip, innuendo, or out-and-out verbal warfare? And what if the entire company is in turmoil because we have an Emotional Terrorist who is just driving everyone bonkers?q The answer is that, in terms of bottom-line thinking, productivity is productivity ? and if your employees are not available because their emotions are not calibrated to your industry standards, then fiscal risks must be considered. Human compassion needs are important. And so is money.Employees today face the possibility of biological, nuclear, incendiary, chemical, explosive, or electronic catastrophe while potentially working in the same cubicle with someone ready to suicide over personal issues at home. They face rumors of downsizing and outsourcing while watching for anthrax amidst rumors that co-workers are having affairs. An employee coughs, someone jokes nervously about SARS, or teases a co-worker about their hamburger coming from a Mad Cow, someone laughs, someone worries, and productivity can falter as minds are not on tasks. Emotions run rampant in human lives and therefore at work sites. High-demand emotions demonstrated by complicated workplace relationships, time-consuming divorce proceedings, addiction behaviors, violence, illness, and death are common issues at work sites which people either manage well ? or do not manage well. Low-demand emotions demonstrated by annoyances, petty bickering, competition, prejudice, bias, minor power struggles, health variables, politics and daily grind feelings take up mental space as well as emotional space. It is reasonable to assume that dramatic effects from a terrorist attack, natural disaster, disgruntled employee shooting, or natural death at the work site would create emotional content. That content can be something that develops, evolves and resolves, or gathers speed and force like a tornado to become a spinning energy event with a life of its own. Even smaller events, such as a fully involved gossip chain or a computer upgrade can lead to the voluntary or involuntary exit of valuable employees. This can add energy to an emotional spin and translate into real risk features such as time loss, recruitment nightmares, disruptions in customer service, additional management hours, remediations and trainings, consultation fees, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) dollars spent, Human Resources (HR) time spent, administrative restructuring, and expensive and daunting litigations. Companies that prepare for the full range of emotions and therefore emotional risks, from annoyance to catastrophe, are better equipped to adjust to any emotionally charged event, small or large. It is never a question of if something will happen to disrupt the flow of productivity, it is only a question of when and how large.Emotions that ebb and flow are functional in the workplace. A healthy system should be able to manage the ups and downs of emotions. Emotions directly affect the continuity of production and services, customer and vendor relations and essential infrastructure. Unstable emotional infrastructure in the workplace disrupts business through such measurable costs as medical and mental health care, employee retention and retraining costs, time loss, or legal fees. Emotional Continuity Management is reasonably simple for managers when they are provided the justifiable concepts, empirical evidence that the risks are real, a set of correct tools and instructions in their use. What has not been easy until recently has been convincing the ?powers that be? that it is value-added work to deal directly and procedurally with emotions in the workplace. Businesses haven?t seen emotions as part of the working technology and have done everything they can do to avoid the topic. Now, cutting-edge companies are turning the corner. Even technology continuity managers are talking about human resources benefits and scrambling to find ways to evaluate feelings and risks. Yes, times are changing. Making a case for policy to manage emotions is now getting easier. For all the pain and horror associated with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, employers are getting the message that no one is immune to crisis. In today''''s heightened security environments the demands of managing complex workplace emotions have increased beyond the normal training supplied by in-house Human Resources (HR) professionals and Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs). Many extremely well-meaning HR and EAP providers just do not have a necessary training to manage the complicated strata of extreme emotional responses. Emotions at work today go well beyond the former standards of HR and EAP training. HR and EAP providers now must have advanced trauma management training to be prepared to support employees. The days of easy emotional management are over. Life and work is much too complicated.Significant emotions from small to extreme are no longer the sole domain of HR, EAP, or even emergency first responders and counselors. Emotions are spinning in the very midst of your team, project, cubicle, and company. Emotions are not just at the scene of a disaster. Emotions are present. And because they are not ?controllable, ? human emotions are not subject to being mandated. Emotions are going to happen.There are many times when emotions cannot be simply outsourced to an external provider of services. There are many times that a manager will face an extreme emotional reaction. Distressed people will require management regularly. That?s your jobA Middle Order Healthy car needs regular oil checks, tire rotations, and an occasional wiggle of the spark plugs. Perhaps ... Low Order Dysfunctional cars break down every few miles and there is no time to watch the scenery out the window.

Title:Emotional Terrors in the Workplace
Author:Vali Hawkins Mitchell, Ph.d., Vali Hawkins Mitchell
Publisher:Rothstein Associates Inc - 2004


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