After all, work is merely a transactional means to make money in order to survive; it's not personal. Show up, put in your eight hours, go home, collect a paycheck.
So much has changed. Research by neuroscientists and organizational psychologists increasingly underscore a major point: Happy people are better employees, more engaged, and work harder and smarter.
While searching for the latest happiness tips and ideas to practice in my daily work routine, I ran into a simple graphic posted by the good folks at Action for Happiness -- a movement of people taking action to create a happier and more caring world.
While far from scientific, this graphic suggests six emotionally-intelligent ways we can effectively respond when faced with a hard day at work.
It's OK to...
1. Not have all the answers.
Let me frame the truth of this idea with a recent conversation I had with Garry Ridge, president and chief executive officer of the WD-40 Company. Ridge made no qualms about one of the key attributes of a good leader when he told me: "You have to get comfortable with the three most powerful words I have learned: I...don't...know."
Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell and author of the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, points this notion back to humility as key to effective leadership: "The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen, and admit that you don't know all the answers. Your pride doesn't get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results."
When you show up with your full authentic and humble self, and confidently display not having all the answers, it makes you a real human being in the eyes of others and opens them up to safely express their own uncertainty.
2. Let yourself cry.
This is a tough one and will be hard to swallow, but here's the context. Yes, we shouldn't allow the workplace to become a breeding ground for therapy sessions; shedding the tears is perceived as weak and an intrusion on the business of work. We are professionals and it's our responsibility to manage our emotions.
But there's another reason we should consider the possible effects of crying. In my interview with Chuck Runyon, CEO and co-founder of international mega-fitness chain, Anytime Fitness, Runyon encourages positive emotional expression, one in which employees can be human, beginning with his embracing of crying in the workplace.
He said, "My business partner -- Dave Mortensen, the co-founder of Anytime Fitness -- is a big, strong guy, but he's not afraid to cry in front of the staff, especially when he's moved by an act of kindness or the demonstration of courage. Nobody should be afraid to cry at the office -- especially tears of joy or appreciation."
To even entertain the possibilities, Runyon emphasized that it's Anytime Fitness' culture -- its values and shared behaviors for belonging, and its tribal social agreements -- that protect the unfettered release of emotional expressions, such as crying.
3. Ask for help.
In a learning organization, positional status is not a barrier to learning. Employees and leaders alike, wherever they fall in the organizational chart, will ask for help, not because they lack knowledge or expertise, but because they seek to learn and grow (and it is safe to ask).
A confident employee in a positive work culture will not only ask for help, but he or she will also openly welcome constructive feedback from a trusted source further down the path.
Insecure leaders and workers operating from hubris rarely ask for help or listen to advice and counsel from different opinions and perspectives.
4. Feel all the emotions.
Don't condemn or deny your feelings--that's how you feel and they are legitimate! After coming to terms with how you feel, work towards changing how you deal with these emotions before they consume you.
People with a high degree of emotional intelligence also are keen on displaying their full array of emotions -- they make room daily for laughter and joy and aren't afraid of expressing frustration, uncertainty or sadness.
They will open up and say "This project is kicking my butt. I need your input: What would you do in this situation?"
Being that open with feeling and expressing your emotions may be perceived as a weakness, but the reality is it's actually a strength that builds trust and community.
5. Make mistakes.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has modeled an unconventional leadership approach that has attracted a cult-like following. At Virgin, he encourages and even celebrates failure.
There's an underlying theme At Virgin that, without trying something new and failing, it's virtually impossible to innovate and grow. He says, "We've never been 100% sure that any of the businesses we've started at Virgin were going to be successful. But over 45 years, we've always stood by our motto: 'Screw it, let's do it.' Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again. Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no exception."
This is in line with NBA legend Michael Jordan, who is famous for this quote: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Closer to home, when you make mistakes, lighten the mood by sharing personal stories and the mistakes you've made. Personal stories will let your tribe know that you are human and imperfect just like the rest of them.
By sharing the mistakes you've made and the lessons you learned from them, people will no longer fear and hide when they make theirs. Story-telling as an authentic human lets your tribe know you've been in their shoes, and helps you connect emotionally with them.
6. It's OK to have bad days.
Finally, allow yourself the honest reality of identifying with every human being on the planet: we all experience bad days, and that's OK.
Accept that you can't control everything; the things that are in your control -- your own emotions and how you respond to people and situations-- you can manage just fine and should be the thing of which you put more focus.
As you put yesterday's bad day behind you, learn to take one thing at a time, practice mindfulness, be present with your feelings, and focus on what's immediately in front of you.