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Job Emotions

Job emotions are rarely talked about. But let’s begin with emotion in general. Emotion is something that we are all familiar with. It is the internal reaction we have to things- the shriek when if you win the lottery, the gasp at the bad news, and the anger when someone tells us we are going to have to change our process.

Job emotions, though, tend not to be outwardly expressed. People might burst into song with their kids at home. It seldom happens at a successful business meeting. Anger is expressed more vocally to friends on the basketball court than to bosses on the shop floor. Fear is addressed with spouse more than with coworkers.

So dealing with job emotions has an added degree of difficulty. We are reluctant to admit they exist, so we seldom deal with them.

Before we get into too far into this discussion, realize that there are really only a few core emotions.

The positive emotions are:

  • Love
  • Happiness
  • Excitement

The negative emotions are:

  • Anger
  • Hurt
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Fear

Emotions, and job emotions, vary in strength. Peeved, irritated, mad, and furious are all shades of anger.

There are a few main points to bring up. The first is that even if we -the ‘we’ being the business world-tend to ignore emotions on the job, they still exist. People react to the things that go on around them. If we don’t pay attention to those reactions, job satisfaction and profit, suffer.

The second point is not to confuse emotion and thought. In the course of any day, you probably hear something like, “I don’t feel like this plan is working.” In truth, the person doesn’t think or believe that the plan is not working. They feel scared, or angry, or something else. Not addressing the emotion can derail improvement efforts.

The last point is that people mask of their emotions on the job. If they are hurt, they may act mad. They might try to put on a happy face if they are actually scared. The underlying emotion is the one that needs to be addressed-not the surface one.

Continuous improvement triggers a wide range of emotional responses from people. Make sure that you don’t try to talk people into feeling differently. Logic doesn’t normally solve job emotion problems. Instead, try to use experiences to change feelings. When people feel the benefits of Lean, they are more likely to get on board.

Job emotions present specific challenges for continuous improvement leaders in their team. I examine this issue in depth, and provide multiple win-win strategies for managers and their employees, in my book, Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?


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