Lesson Learned: Automate Emotions

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When I first started working in the corporate world I was meek and mild, gentle and kind, living with my heart on my sleeve but I soon found that I needed to evolve, in order to survive. I was the proverbial open book, believing that honesty could only be an asset in business, as it ought to be in life, which included honestly sharing my every emotion.

I’d just started my first corporate job, as the bid / tender manager, and of course I was unconsciously shockingly ignorant of all the role entailed but I was determined to become the best bid manager possible, in the shortest possible time. I’d learned the role in record time and was consistently delivering quality outputs to the incredibly exacting standards of my old-school boss. He was the kind of person to reject an entire tender submission (of 10 large ring binder files) at 2am in the morning, because I’d missed a comma.

Tenders / bids would often need to be delivered, as physical copies in those days, in person by 08h00 in the morning. But the sales and technical teams would first need to find out exactly what the client wanted and how to make it happen before they could start drafting the content. After that, it would then move to the commercial department to include the proposed contract (SLA / Service Level Agreement) and pricing for the proposed solution.

Finally, it would be the job of the bid manager to turn it into a cohesive, professional document to be both printed out in multiple copies, as well as including a digital copy. But because so many different individuals were involved in drafting the submission it was very disjointed and sometimes even contradictory and I then needed to edit it into a cohesive, well-structured, aesthetically pleasing document, in a single voice (language style and tone, etc.), ensuring that it would be a true reflection of the company’s professional image and reputation.

The down side of the job was that due to the extremely short deadlines, we’d often do our final review of the compiled documents, right through the night and well into the early hours of the final morning.

Being exhausted, under pressure and stressed to get it out in time, I then still needed to literally, dot every ‘i‘ and cross every ‘t‘ to perfection. This led me to aim for excellence and perfection in every aspect of my work. With a lot of practice :-), I learned how to take harsh criticism and use it to improve further, rather than letting it destroy my confidence and I became more emotionally resilient, as a result. Resilience or strength of character is seldom inborn, it is learned the hard way, with no shortcuts along that journey.

Having mastered all that, I had then felt that my boss could trust me to then just get on with it but that was not to be, as he had another business lesson to impart.

It did not matter that I was ready to go solo, he was the boss and was not yet ready to let me run with it on my own. So, for our next large tender, he announced that another member of staff would be taking point on it, adding that I would assist them. I ran the full gambit of emotions – shock, disbelief, betrayal, hurt, anger and humiliation. Oddly, when I’m truly angry I cannot express myself in words, I simply tear up and start to cry.

Blessedly, the operations SME (Subject Matter Expert) noted my reaction and before it could spill over, pulled me from the room. In an adjacent room, she firmly told me to not show my feelings, no matter how justified, if I wanted to be taken seriously and to only return to the meeting when I had collected myself and was again cool and calm, or I’d do myself no favours. At first I did not understand, as whilst she was being kind, she was also not coddling me. She gave me the simple hard facts that I had not yet learned, which was that showing emotion in business can sometimes harm you, rather than benefit you.

Exerting that level of control over my emotions was 10x harder than actually learning to do the job and it would become one of the most valuable business lessons I’d ever learn.

According to Elevate, in their LinkedIn article entitled, ‘What role should emotions play in the workplace? It’s complicated‘, as it is ‘One of the most debated topics in leadership‘. They go on to explain that displaying emotion in the workplace, such as being passionate about a topic, or displaying vulnerability may be appreciated only, ‘As long as these displays of extraordinary emotion are the exception, and not the rule.’ Adding that, ‘When you are working with someone who is constantly on an emotional roller coaster, you can never be certain which version of them you’ll get in any given moment.‘ Ultimately, constant emotionality ‘erodes trust over time‘ and a leader would eventually start to believe that the employee ‘cannot handle difficult situations‘ and will start to work around the employee, which ‘then limits the employee’s growth and advancement opportunities.

Another LinkedIn Article: ‘Emotional stability at work…’ by Bronson Dameron, notes that ‘employers are in many ways responsible for a large portion of employee’s emotional stability.’ ‘Because employers are providing a workplace where people collaborate and accomplish projects.’ ‘Tell me employers aren’t responsible for employees’ emotional stability next time you find yourself out of a job and a paycheck…’. Ending with, ‘Employees with emotional stability are better equipped to handle the stress and anxiety associated with economic uncertainty. They’re more likely to remain productive, focused, and engaged even in the face of economic instability…’

Work is hard and everyone is struggling with their own problems but they still show up and get the job done. But, if you become someone who constantly expresses negative emotions, you will be exhausting to be around and people will eventually begin to avoid you, even those who were initially on your side. So, there needs to be a delicate balance between which emotions you reveal and which you hold back.

I’m not saying that you should become a totally inhuman robot but you should learn to project (look ahead) to see if expressing that emotion would benefit or hinder you, in the longer term.

If the emotion you are feeling could make you appear weak, out of control, unprofessional, crazy or incapable of performing your job, then you would probably be wise to leave the room and to calm down before returning to contribute positively.

Coming back to my own personal story … I paid my dues assisting and the next time I was given the opportunity to manage a tender on my own, I thrived. Proving to my boss that he could trust me to handle the job and over time I earned his unwavering trust and support, which was all the sweeter for being so hard won.

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Posted by optimumbusines

Lyn has worked in various business areas of large, internationally-recognised, multinational telecommunication corporate organisations since 2004, gaining significant expertise in the business language of each. Her role regularly combined the functions of internal communications, training and change management on large projects and other strategic initiatives. She also has specific experience in: – Creating HR policies and procedures – Talent recruitment lead creation procedures – Process creation, optimisation and re-engineering in AP, sourcing and HR – Migrating and managing SOX and EWC compliance, and implementations – Global and regional Shared Service Centre management and implementations – Bid Management – EcoMetric assessment training and certification procedures – Internship creation and management – Full SAP, IFRS15, Concur and S4 Hana implementations QUALIFICATIONS She has a four-year Higher Diploma in Education from the University of Natal, in secondary (high school) second language teaching. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree, from the University of South Africa (UNISA), majoring in Psychology. She is a certified EcoMetrist and has an Advanced 120 Hour TEFL certificate. Her combination of international business experience provides practical, professional know-how, combined with excellent qualifications, ensures an effective all-round, expert approach to training.

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One Reply to “Lesson Learned: Automate Emotions”

  1. Simply wish to say your article is as amazing The clearness in your post is just nice and i could assume youre an expert on this subject Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work

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