Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

Many man­agers are un­com­fort­able with emo­tional be­hav­iour, re­gard­less of whether it’s pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. “Peo­ple think to be pro­fes­sional, you need to ig­nore your emo­tions and those of the peo­ple around you,” says Jef­frey Sanchez-Burks, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment and or­gan­i­sa­tion at the Ross School of Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, whose re­search shows this to be the norm in most Amer­i­can work­places. But few peo­ple can live up to this stan­dard. “We don’t leave our hu­man­ity at the of­fice door,” he says. Anne Kreamer, author of It’s Al­ways Per­sonal: Emo­tion in the New Work­place, agrees: “You can’t de­cide what to wear to work, let alone close a deal or make an im­por­tant pre­sen­ta­tion, with­out emo­tions be­ing in­volved,” she says. Crying is a bi­o­log­i­cal reaction to stress, “an emo­tional re­set valve”. So in­stead of ig­nor­ing your em­ploy­ees’ tears, re­spond to them.

ACT LIKE YOUR­SELF The ac­tions you take – of­fer a tis­sue, ask what’s wrong, give a hug – will de­pend on your re­la­tion­ship, how long you’ve worked to­gether and the of­fice cul­ture. The key is to en­gage and let the tears f low, in­stead of ig­nor­ing or judg­ing the per­son. FIG­URE OUT WHAT’S RE­ALLY GO­ING ON Some­times even when the rea­sons for the tears seem clear, they might not be. An em­ployee might start sob­bing in a re­view con­ver­sa­tion, but he’s re­ally up­set about his mother be­ing sick. Once he has let the emo­tions out, “it’s your job to tease out what’s go­ing on and how you can help,” Kreamer says. Man­agers should be able to gen­tly ask ques­tions that get at the un­der­ly­ing is­sue. Try say­ing, “What’s go­ing on?” or “Is there any­thing else you want to tell me?” “You don’t need to be a thera- pist,” Sanchez-Burks says. “You just need to be avail­able.” At the same time, re­spect your em­ploy­ees’ bound­aries. He might not want to con­fide in the boss. Don’t take it per­son­ally. In­stead, try to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion from a dis­tance, or ask an­other em­ployee who’s close with him to check in and make sure he’s all right. KEEP IT SIM­PLE If you’ve iden­ti­fied that the prob­lem is a per­sonal one, stick to sim­ple and com­fort­ing re­sponses – “I’m sorry” or “This is a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion.” Don’t tell him that ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be okay or im­ply that he should buck up. And re­sist the temp­ta­tion to tell a story of your own. “The last thing in the world an anx­ious em­ployee wants to hear about is how you han­dled your own or some­one else’s i l l ness,” Kreamer says.

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