Timing is everything – ‘The Crown’ is finally back on Netflix, and we can collectively breathe a sigh of relief that it returned just in time to entertain us during the pandemic. And not only can we look to ‘The Crown’ for entertainment, we can also learn a thing or two about workplace etiquette regarding emotions at work, both virtually and in-person.
Case in point – as Margaret Thatcher enters the scene to meet the queen, she is relieved to discover there will be “no emotion” in their relationship and it will be “all about the work.”
And we should emulate this behavior in the workplace, why?
YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT
One of the biggest criticisms of the queen is also one of her biggest strengths – you know what you are going to get from her emotional landscape, whether she’s going to war, learning about a death in the family or at a child’s birthday party. Her reactions (emotionally) are always the same – she’s steady as a rock when it comes to keeping her emotions in check.
Now, I am not suggesting we be stoic throughout our entire careers—but I do think it’s critical to find a place that will allow you to have some predictability and steadiness to your candor.
When your co-workers know you are in control of your emotions, they are more likely to be honest about mistakes, upfront about bad news and generally more willing to support you in your role. People like to know what they are walking into — if your reactions are consistent and focus on the work and next steps, it creates ease in the workplace.
If you have a history of displaying your emotions, you risk being labeled as erratic, therefore making you less approachable and not likely to be trusted with new information. Fear is never a good emotion for productivity.
SAVE IT FOR YOUR CHAMBER
Another strength of the queen is when her emotions do run high, she saves it for her private quarters. And because SHE IS HUMAN, we have seen the queen on ‘The Crown’ let her guard down a few times when she’s been alone.
She doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, but that doesn’t mean she’s without feelings. She just chooses to save these waves of emotion for her private quarters.
This self-control applies to the workplace. If you are dealing with a personal issue that is affecting you at work, don’t put this on your co-workers — they will lose respect for you. As we’ve all heard, “there’s no crying in baseball” and there’s also no crying at work.
Life happens. Tragedy happens. There are many things that are out of our control, but what is in your control is how you deal with your emotions.
In my earlier career, I was an intern. I worked alongside another intern who was very angry with how a project was going and stormed out of the room throwing papers saying they would never work there again (as well as a few other profanities).
This burst of emotion caused all the respect I had had for this co-worker to immediately go out the window. Prior to this outburst, I would have proudly recommended them for any job. But because of their momentary lapse in judgment, my opinion changed in a matter of seconds and I would no longer be able to vouch for them because of their inability to control their anger.
This is why it’s so important to allow yourself (and give yourself permission) to take a time out. Step away. Save your face and your respect.
NAMING THE EMOTION
What the queen does best is she calls out the emotion rather than displays it. For example, when she has had to deliver bad news, she will recognize the emotional weight of the situation by saying, “this is a tragic event”. By doing this, she allows others to feel the emotion on their own terms, rather than showing them how they should feel.
If you find yourself in a position where something truly angers you, try naming the emotion rather than displaying it. For example, if you’re disappointed the team didn’t meet the deadline as anticipated, think back to when you were younger and someone of authority yelled at you for something you did.
They were SHOWING their emotion. You likely thought to yourself, “wow, they are quick to anger,” and even found their emotion amusing. What was more effective and perhaps scarier? When they were calm and named the emotion. Chances are, this caused you to be disappointed in yourself, which was likely to have you change your behavior.
We have seen the queen show amusement (especially around her dogs) or disappointment with her facial expressions. These are authentic emotions she allows her facial expressions to have. What sets her apart is that her rangeof emotional reactions is always set. To use the metaphor of a stovetop, she is always set to medium heat. Maybe medium-high, maybe medium-low, but always medium. Even with this set range in mind—she is still authentic.
We’re human. Of course you’re allowed to laugh if something is amusing, or be frustrated, angry, or hurt for all types of reasons, but it’s important to keep your range of emotions in check. In the workplace, think of small hills and valleys rather than large mountains and canyons. Save your epic display for your car, bathroom, or bedroom. The good ol’ screaming in the pillow works, too.
There will be times when you lose your cool. Going back to ‘The Crown,’ think of the scene with Margaret Thatcher when they cannot locate her son and she cries in front of the queen. Since the queen knew this was uncharacteristic of her, she took sympathy and didn’t lose respect for her.
If you are normally “in the range” and something so impactful happens that it causes you to cry, your co-workers will understand this is a unique situation. Whereas if they’re used to seeing you regularly cry at work over everyday frustrations, they won’t realize the severity of your current traumatic situation.
To have executive presence, you must be respected and not lose any credibility. By remaining authentic, and keeping your emotions in check, you will become a respected, but more importantly, trustworthy leader.