Breaking the corporate model by cracking a taboo

 tray of eggs with a different emotion drwan on each of them with a black marker. Instead of pretending you can push them away, embrace your emotions - and unlock the magic of true leadership
Instead of pretending you can push them away, embrace your emotions - and unlock the magic of true leadership | Credit: Unsplash.
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// Every month, I send a text born out of my experience and my reflections - like this one. Sometimes with learning and sometimes with unresolved dilemma, I share how it feels to be a corporate activist. If you'd like to receive the next ones directly in your mailbox, here is where to subscribe - it comes with a no-spam promise  😇 // 

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Hello dear friend,


Today I want to talk about one of the most unnecessary taboos of the workplace - emotions.


Have you ever noticed how it is expected to be as emotionless as possible at work, in what I believe to be a collective attempt at self-hypnosis to convince ourselves that are decisions are good because they are purely rational... blink blink 😉


I mean - we are humans, we have emotions, they are present and they impact our thinking and annoy our metabolism - and denying their existence does NOT help with realizing how much they are at play!


But the traditional, patriarchal culture of not showing emotions, particularly if you are a guy, has shaped the business world so stiffly that we still pretend to be robots at work today despite the tons of psychology research telling us we need to embrace emotions to be better performing (and be better humans at work, but who cares? cynicism in my words😂)


So the story I want to share with you today is how I got to bump onto my own emotions and was forced to deal with them rather than pretend they were not there.


It all starts with a chat message early morning Monday before I even started my day - or my week for this matter! 












Hello Marie - I will need your support if possible for an internship of my niece currently in engineering degree in Saint Etienne. She has a 6-week internship at the end of April and I would like her to do it [the factory] in Brive if possible because it is very rich in teaching (just by being with the operators for example) We can talk about it again. Thank you XXXX

So my reaction to that was - argh.


I don't know the guy that much and I was disappointing that he would only talk to me because he needs something from me. On top of that I have an instinctive negative reaction to people pulling favors to help family members because it goes against my belief in meritocracy.


But mostly what turned me off immediately is the fact that he did not even think of asking me how I was doing! I mean - if you are going to ask for a favor, you can at least pretend to be polite... 😳


So my reaction was to push all these emotions away - I did not want to start my week with that energy - and I pretended I did not receive the message and I did not answer.


However destiny had apparently decided otherwise...


On the Tuesday immediately after, I had to travel abroad to meet my team at one of our offices, and as I go through the gates after picking up my badge at the reception, guess who I see having a chat with a colleague in the corridor?


Yep - the guy. There was no avoiding anymore...


As I walk with my jacket still on my back, my handbag on the shoulder, my luggage in one hand and my dangling pass on the other, I go towards them and greet them with a 'hello, how are you guys?'


I barely get an answer or an opportunity to turn to the other colleague that he asks if I have seen his request about his niece... to which I answer with a big smile - 'you mean, the one where you did not even ask how I am doing?'


The other colleague immediately gets the situation and smiles with me. The guy realizes his blunder, gets a bit red and apologizes. To cut the awkwardness short, I ask him more info about what the internship needs to entail and discuss briefly with him how I can help. Of course I can relate to the family stress of not having locked the internship yet!


Why am I telling you this story? Because my first reaction was to ignore the whole thing - and then everybody loses. I don't get to think about what triggered me, the guy doesn't get feedback on the impact of his lack of politeness and the niece does not get her internship. 


But once I was forced to face the situation - and forced to face my feelings in order to be able to articulate them with another human being - I unlocked a win-win situation.


Once discussing this with a close friend and mastermind partner, I realized even more the untapped potential of emotions and how much I was conditioned by my upbringing, my scientific education and my line of work to neglect and even deny my emotions. 


Thanks to this conversation, I committed to pay more attention to my emotions at work and to make an effort to clarify what I am feeling, separate the emotions which often come as a bundle and try to put a name on them.


So here is my challenge for the coming two weeks: I have set an alarm every 2h30 (to not always fall in the in-between meetings moment) to remind myself to check how I am feeling. I have printed a wheel of emotions to have a guide in describing my emotion and getting familiar with quickly finding the words about what's going on inside of me.


My hope is to get faster and more literate in describing my emotions. And of course the bonus would be to unlock more win-win situations, let's see how it goes!


Let me know if you are up to running the challenge with me! Reply to me here or share with the group at Humans of Big Corp - I'd love to know how it's going for you and what situations you've unlocked!


And remember - being the best version of yourself at work is possibly the most impactful thing you can do for yourself, your career, the company you work for and by extension the world.


So be well, be strong, be you.


With love - always,


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