If you’re a working woman there’s no doubt you’ve faced challenging work situations where your emotions have been tested. Have there been times when you wondered, how do others do it?
We chatted up Preeti Rastogi Saikia, former Head of India Research & Operations at Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) and current senior leader at Kilpatrick Executive Search.
Preeti gives some handy tips on how to manage your emotions around challenging personal situations and angry emails. She also shares her favorite confidence building ritual before high stakes meetings.
Read on for more.
Can you share an example of a tough situation in your life and how you managed your emotions around that time?
This was a time of personal grief where I lost my parents within a very short time gap of each other. I was totally down and out at this time. But three things really helped me:
- I took some time off. I realized soon enough that I first need to deal with my grief. Without doing that, I was not helpful to my team. I actively went ahead and spoke with my team and informed them that I’ll be taking some time off for this reason. Fortunately, they were all very understanding.
- I pro-actively reached out to family and friends. I’ve realized that we all go through such tough times and pretend to be strong. Or we feel that if we seek someone’s help we’ll be perceived as weak. But I made that effort to ask for support which helped me immensely in putting myself back together quickly.
- And finally, I was very open about my situation with my colleagues. I did not try to hide it or pretend that I was ok. This ensured that I got full support from my team.
What about every day work life? Any specific situation where one needs to learn to manage their emotions?
Yes! We see this so commonly. Sometimes you’re really angry at someone and you want to shoot a nasty email. I’ve received such emails where the contents of that mail bark at me. In such cases, I try to take the anger out of it and focus first one what the person is saying. Similarly, if I feel like going nasty on someone, I do something else before even typing that email. Corporations need to educate their employees to write well thought out emails.
When it comes to managing your emotions, an organization’s focus on mental wellbeing of their employees also plays a huge role in positively handling different emotions. According to you what is the biggest myth about mental health in the workplace today?
I’ve observed three things:
- People think if someone’s facing a mental health issue, they’re “loosing it”. We need to create more awareness about it and how mental health illnesses are very similar to physical illnesses.
- We are very understanding if an employee’s productivity is getting impacted due to fever or typhoid. But when it comes to depression or anxiety organizations are not treating it the same way.
- There is this big myth that’s floating around where people equate mental health issues to “mood swings”. As long as that stays, people will be dismissive of mental health.
What are your top three suggestions for leaders to help employees manage their emotions better?
Firstly, leaders need to understand that stress is a reality of life and they need to equip their employees to deal with it. We haven’t been given this training in school or college so organizations need to do it and help employees in their personal development. I mean, if you promote an employee purely on the basis of his technical skills but you know that he’s not ready for the stress that comes with the role, you’re actually doing a disservice to him. Going unprepared, will affect his performance as well as morale.
Secondly, we need to create a culture of open communication. Sometimes it’s okay to say that your plate is full and you need some time off. And this culture can only be created from top down.
And finally, I am all for aggression and hustle at the workplace. But leaders need to nip unhealthy aggression in the bud. For example, react sharply to disrespectful emails or curt one liners and let people know that the organization won’t tolerate it and perhaps even have guidelines around it. This goes a long way in building the organization’s culture.
Managing our emotions effectively during high stakes situations like board presentations, big client visits or town hall meetings can make or break our success. What is your most favorite confidence building ritual for such situations?
Check out this video for Preeti’s answer