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Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy believe in bringing your full self to work each day. As two millennial leaders, they have learned first-hand what it’s like to try to reconcile the differences between “work life” and “non-work life.” In other words, it’s not possible to be truly successful if we suppress our full selves—the self that allows us to feel, to be present, and to be human among our teammates. In their recent book, Fosslein and West Duffy state that authentic leadership requires a deep understanding of self, and it is our comfort with ourselves that allows us to bring our emotions and our humanity to work.
After they began their careers, Fosslien and West Duffy both realized that the organizations they were working for were conditioning employees to function and connect but doing so completely devoid of feelings. Fosslien studied mathematical economics at Pomona College and then worked as an analyst at an economic consulting firm — it was the job she always thought she wanted, until it led her to become anxious, having severe headaches that forced her to quit. Since high school, West Duffy wanted to be an architect. After working at an architecture firm, she realized she was more interested in the people inside the buildings and their interactions rather than the buildings themselves. Meeting on a platonic friend date (Fosslien had asked friends to set her up with whomever they should she should meet), they became collaborators and writing partners.
The three of us sat down to discuss their new book, “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work”:
Rimma Boshernitsan: You met in an interesting way? How did that help the central idea for this book come to life?
Mollie West Duffy: I met Liz a few years later when she moved to NYC from SF. After spending time worrying about imagined abuse she thought New Yorkers might heap on her, she reached out to her West Coast friends asking to be set up on platonic friend dates—I was one of those dates. We bonded immediately: We’re both introverts, have an irreverent sense of humor, need eye masks to sleep, and we take on creative side projects. The closer we got, the more we realized that we had both entered the workforce believing that if you wanted to be “professional” you had to cut out feelings entirely. We soon started writing articles together based on our experiences in the workplace. One of them—“6 Illustrations That Show What It’s Like in an Introvert’s Head”—was viewed by over a million people! That’s when we realized many people might need to hear our message: It’s OK to acknowledge your emotions, and preferred work style, on the job.
RB: In the book, you talk about bringing in more of our authentic selves into the workplace. Why are emotions so important for our work performance?
Liz Fosslien: The idea that we can ever check our feelings at the door is biologically impossible. Humans are emotional creatures, regardless of circumstance. By pretending we don’t have feelings at work, we’re overlooking important data and risking easily preventable mistakes. We send emails that cause unnecessary anxiety, we fail to make work meaningful, and we are more likely to burn out. The most successful people don’t pretend to be emotionless—they acknowledge their feelings, figure out which are relevant, and which are not, and then effectively express their needs.
RB: How will human connection define the future of work?
MWD: The future of work is emotional. Today, the top skills employers seek are already the ability to work on a team and the capacity to communicate verbally with others. Both of these require emotional fluency. And as we continue to place a premium on meaningful work–and spend more time at work–we will have to listen to and learn from emotions to create workplaces where everyone can thrive, not just survive.
In their book, Fosslien and West Duffy state that the best and most innovative workplaces help employees feel a sense of belonging. They define diversity as having a seat at the table, inclusion as having a voice, and belonging as having that voice be heard. Fosslien and West Duffy shared a few specific actions anyone can take to create belonging in the office space:
- Use a colleague’s name in conversation (this requires you to ask and remember how to correctly pronounce it).
- Once a month, grab a coffee or lunch with a coworker you don’t know that well.
- When someone joins a conversation, take a moment to bring them up to speed.
- If a colleague goes out of their way to help you, thank them!
- If you notice someone get cut off mid-sentence, make a point to jump in and ask them to continue sharing their thoughts.
When asked about their learnings, findings and considerations to keep in mind for people entering the workforce today, and/or transitioning into new roles or new organizations, they had this to say:
- Learn which emotions to keep, and which to toss: There’s a science to listening to your gut. The reason emotions get a bad reputation is that we don’t know how to decode them. Not all feelings should be weighted equally. For example, if you’re trying to decide whether to ask for a promotion, and the idea of not asking fills you with regret, that feeling is important and you should factor it into your decision. But if you stub your toe, get upset, and suddenly decide your colleagues’ ideas are all bad, you’ve just let a feeling that has nothing to do with your coworkers affect how you treat them—and that’s not useful!
- Stop feeling bad about feeling bad: The nature of work is to experience setbacks and to show up when you’re needed, even if you don’t feel like it. And research shows when we try to suppress our sadness, disappointment, or anger, we are more likely to feel those same emotions. So, be kind to yourself when you’re having a bad day.
- Emotionally proofread your emails: Always re-read what you’ve written before hitting “send” to make sure your message is clear and conveys the intended tone. Sending “Let’s talk.” when you mean “These are good suggestions, let’s discuss how to work them into the draft” will make the recipient unnecessarily anxious.
April 26, 2019 at 02:47PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs