Why emotions have their place at work

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« Le problème est que les émotions sont encore très souvent perçues comme un signe de faiblesse. Si je parle, est-ce que je vais être mis au placard ? »

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Posted on Dec. 2021 at 7:00

To say, or not to say, what is wrong. This is the question that many employees ask themselves before daring to express their work-related difficulties, frustrations or unease. Margaux *, a 33-year-old independent, supports less and less “Lack of consideration” of his employers. With each incident, she tackles.

Two weeks before the Christmas holidays, this temporary professor at a higher education establishment learns that the administration has given the students an extra week to hand in their end-of-semester work. Result: less time to correct the papers to be returned at the start of the school year, as planned. One thing annoys her above all else: her referent warned the students before her and at no time did he ask her if it was feasible on his side. He contented himself with transmitting the information to her, by email.

However, she did not dare to say frankly that this change of program was not compatible with her schedule. And especially that she felt excluded from the decision. “I'm afraid of losing this mission”, she admits. Insecurity is not the only factor that pushes her to make periphrases. “I often find myself in situations where I am not asked for my opinion, where I am not listened to. I was psychologically conditioned to keep a low profile ”, she analyzes. Results : “I accumulate frustration and I find myself at the chiropractor with the start of a herniated disc.”

Emotions versus reason

Margaux is not the only one to curb her emotions. And for good reason: at work, they are rarely welcome. “We inherit a dualistic thought: reason is valued to the detriment of emotions, which are associated with the body, with unpredictability, with women. The work was built in this wake. We wanted to make the professional world a rational world “, explains Aurélie Jeantet, sociologist at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and author of the book Lesotions au travail (ed. CNRS).

However, “Emotion is above all a message: it says something about us at a precise moment”, specifies Vanessa Lauraire, occupational psychologist. “When a team receives an email announcing the reorganization of the service, an employee will be stressed while another who loves the change will be delighted”.

Sharing your feelings is necessary. They are like alerts, signals sent to the outside in the face of a sometimes problematic internal situation. However, these signals are useful for the employer to know how each worker experiences a situation and to act accordingly. Remember that according to the Labor Code, he has an obligation of means but also of result concerning the health and safety of his employees. In other words, managers must ensure that employees do not experience psychological suffering due to working conditions.

Fear of the worst

Emotions can be heavy on a daily basis and difficult to express. We can feel overwhelmed when faced with the overload of work, paralyzed by the injunction to be efficient, lack of motivation in the face of monotonous tasks.

The problem is that emotions are still very often seen as a sign of weakness. If I speak, will I be put in the closet, miss a promotion, find myself in the boss's sights?

Fear of consequences is an obstacle, admits Vanessa Lauraire. “People imagine anxiety-provoking scenarios”. While more often than not, by putting things on the table, other solutions can emerge and open up horizons: a change of position, a reorganization of the service, etc. Talking to your superiors or even to colleagues can help you see things more clearly and avoid going in circles.

Find allies

For that, it is still necessary to feel confident. “The organization often creates a climate conducive to isolation. The act of work and performance are individualized ”, emphasizes the psychologist.

After her divorce, Léa *, who was a freelance illustrator for fifteen years, looked for a stable job and was hired by an association. But very quickly, the workload and management weigh on her mental health, but she sees her peers accepting the status quo. The employee does not dare to share her feelings.

The arrival of a new colleague, with whom she can discuss her problems, allows her to “Take a step back from difficult situations. ““It confirmed that it was not all in my head”, she sums up.

The price of silence

Lea ends up negotiating a conventional break. “There was a crazy turnover, without any questioning: the department heads concluded that people were simply on the move”, she notes.

If she says to herself “Relieved” to have left, she regrets not having been more honest with the management of the association. “It would have been constructive to speak and above all, today, I feel bad for those who pass behind me”, she admits. She still alerted her predecessor during the handover.

Setting aside emotions at work promotes psychosocial risks. It has economic and social repercussions. According to the annual study by the provident group Apicil and the CSR consultancy firm Mozart Consulting, in 2021, the overall cost of ill-being at work is 13,340 Pounds per year and per employee. “There are hidden costs, such as those covered by Social Security, adds sociologist Aurélie Jeantet. Society as a whole pays. “

Re-affect the world of work

The sociologist suggests “Re-affect” the world of work. “We are less intelligent when we rely solely on reason,” she says. Emotions are a clue. If I have any fear, maybe the situation is dangerous. “ According to the researcher, “You should organize spaces and times to talk about your emotions at work”. And of course, take them into account.


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