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No Hard Feelings

The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work

By Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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No Hard Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

No Hard Feelings (2018) is a guide to understanding, expressing and managing your emotions in the context of your working life. All too often, we buy into the idea that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. But the reality is that your work life is full of emotion. From feeling frustrated with irritating colleagues to the misery of being unmotivated, these blinks are a practical guide to help you navigate how you feel about work.

Key idea 1 of 8

It’s possible to build a healthy emotional culture at work through small, positive actions.

Would you rather work in an office where people say a cheery “hello” to one another in the hall, and share the occasional moment of joy or sadness? Or one where people appear enthusiastic at their desks but head off to the bathroom for a long, lonely cry.

A healthy emotional culture in the workplace makes a difference. For example, a study by Kim Cameron, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, found that organizations that discourage compassion and gratitude have higher staff turnover rates. Meanwhile, research from Barry Staw, a professor at Berkeley, showed that employees whose managers are rude are more likely to make poor decisions, and they forget important information more frequently.

The good news is that it doesn’t take an organizational overhaul to encourage emotional expression in the workplace. In fact, small gestures can be particularly important. Take the example of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group’s 10/5 rule. The hotel’s employees are taught that if they walk within ten feet of someone, they should smile and make eye contact. Within five feet, they offer a friendly “hello.” The 10/5 rule has been implemented at hospitals, and it seems to make not just customers, but also employees happier.

Another way to build a positive emotional culture is to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Doing so is a good investment because, as a 2017 New York Times article noted, a feeling of not belonging among employees is one of the highest predictors of turnover. Google’s own research shows that employees who get a warm welcome from their managers on the first day at the office are more productive a full nine months later.

So try taking an idea from IDEO, the design consultancy where Duffy, one of the authors, works. The company gives each of their new hires a first-day enterview, in which everyone who interviewed the new recruit shares exactly why they are pumped for him or her to join. And they go one step further: after filling out a quirky onboarding survey a few weeks before her start date, Duffy made a pleasant discovery on her first day of work – a pack of her favorite snacks waiting for her on her desk! A simple touch, but one that made her feel positive about her new workplace from day one.

Of course, while we all have a part to play in building a healthy emotional culture at work, leaders have a special responsibility. Let’s examine this in the next blink.

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