How To: Introduce Emotion Into the Workplace


So often, inciting change can be really hard, and knowing where to start is frequently the hardest part of it all. That’s why we’re in love with Liz Fosslien’s How To. In it, she teaches us how to be the first one to introduce emotion in the workplace. As if we needed another reason to love Liz and Mollie’s work in their upcoming book No Hard Feelings, we have one. Read on to learn from author and illustrator Liz about how to start the change you want to see in your workplace.

I’ll do two general tips, and two if you’re a manager.


1.     When you’re faced with a decision, figure out which emotions are relevant to the situation  and which are not. If you think about not putting your name in for a promotion and you’re filled with regret, you should probably put your name in. Regret is an important signal that you’re missing out on something that could be great. If the idea of putting your name in fills you with excitement, that’s also an important signal. If the idea fills you with dread, or makes you nervous, it might be a sign that you should wait a bit.

Something that’s not going to be relevant is if you’re in a really bad mood. That’s not relevant, but it will color how you make decisions. When we’re mad or stressed, we rely more on stereotypes about people and act out of a place or irrationality.

2.     We catch other people’s emotions through a process called emotional contagion. If someone near you is in a bad mood, it’s important to protect yourself from also becoming grumpy. A really good way to do that is when someone comes to you venting about something for the fifth time,  say, “What could you have done differently? Or what could we do to improve the situation?” That prompts them to stop complaining and think about a solution. It’s a nice way of shutting down the negativity.

For managers:             

1.     They do this at IDEO (where Mollie works). It’s called an “Enterview,” the combination of “Enter” and “Interview.” You get a job offer, and you’re euphoric, but as your start date approaches, you get more and more anxious: “Why did they hire me? Can I even do this job?” By the time you start, you’re stressed out. I remember at one job, my email hadn’t been set up on my first day, so I had nothing to do and they gave me a binder to pick my 401k and health insurance. I’m not an expert at any of that, so I felt incompetent on my first day.

An Enterview is meant to flip that. You have everyone who interviewed the new hire write one thing that was really impressive during the interview, one thing they’re excited to learn about you, and a skill you have that they’re really excited for you to bring to the team. So, on your first day there’s a bunch of nice notes about you on your desk. At Google, there’s research that shows that if an employee receives a warm welcome from their manager on the first day, it has significant effects on how long they stay and how productive they are.

2.     If you’re a manager, set the tone for equitable discussion. Send out an agenda for the meeting and add in a prompt, and then ask everyone to prepare a minute or thirty-second answer. Then, start the meeting by having everyone go around the table and give their answer.

There’s research that shows that if you say something early on in the meeting, you’re much more comfortable speaking up for the rest. So, you’ve created an environment in which not one person dominates the conversation, and that will encourage equitable participation throughout the entire meeting. It can be a goofy prompt or something work related. You should match it to the tone of the team and company.

Great advice, Liz! Thank you so much for sharing your findings with us, we’ve loved learning more about all of it. Readers, come back next week to learn more about what it’s like to be a full-time candy maker.