I once worked with someone who counted to ten under his breath every time he got frustrated at work. A pointless meeting dragging on for hours. (One, two, three, four.) A co-worker offloading their work. (Five, six, seven, eight.) The boss stealing credit for an idea. (Nine... ten!)

He never told his co-workers how frustrated he really was -- he just stewed and quietly counted. And holding all that in was exhausting.

There is a term for what this person was suffering from: emotional labor. It is when your body has to work hard to suppress what you really feel. Researchers say it is a common occurrence at work. The more you do it, the more likely you are to experience emotional exhaustion.

But this emotional labor is not just exhausting you -- it is also limiting your teammates. When you bottle in the concerns or frustrations you have about work, you do not give anyone the chance to do better. Or, the opportunity to correct any misguided assumptions.

The solution to this exhaustion is to start practicing greater transparency at work. You need to communicate directly and honestly -- while accepting that same kind of openness right back.

Now, I am not suggesting you get carried away and start expressing every little emotion you have. (And you certainly should not start airing personal grievances. Keep it professional.) But I do believe a healthy dose of transparency at work can move everyone forward.

This is something our team at Aha! practices every day. In fact, transparency is one of the core principles of The Responsive Method (TRM) -- our framework for success that guides how we serve customers and each other. TRM is how our entirely distributed team has been able to rapidly grow in just five years and now serves over 5,000 customers.

Whether or not you work somewhere that prioritizes transparency, you can still bring it into your workday. Here is how:

Give context

When you have a concern or frustration, share the reason why. Feedback should be rooted in something firm. So, stay away from vague statements like, "We just cannot do that." And instead give specific feedback like, "Our goal is X. I am not sure that is the most efficient way to achieve the objective. How about if we try Y." Giving context prevents your feedback from being taken personally.

Be open

Transparency should be a two-way conversation. After you offer up your own feedback, take a pause and your give teammates the chance to share their own. Their insights might change the way you are thinking about a problem or present a solution that you did not already consider.

Ask often

As you open yourself to your teammate's feedback, ask them lots of questions. How do you feel this project is going? What is holding back our progress? What do you think we could do better? The answers to these will help you land on the best path forward.

Show respect

All of the above should be rooted in respect. Speak with kindness and acknowledge that everyone has a unique perspective. Your teammates deserve to hear thoughtful and honest opinions. And you owe it to yourself to share those opinions.

After all, you spend the majority of your life at work -- why should you have to hold back how you really feel?

Be true to yourself. Speak your piece with kindness. And stop trying so hard to hold it all in.

How do you respectfully share your feelings at work?

Published on: Aug 8, 2018