The Good Boss: Emotion Regulation in Workplace Relationships
I’ve always thought I was a good employee: I do good work, on time, and people generally like working with me. I say “generally” because at times in the past I’ve been a moody procrastinator who resists being told what to do. I’ve also burst into tears when given negative feedback from a boss and cursed at a coworker in front of several of our colleagues. Am I losing credibility here?
In my defense, the less-than-model employee behaviors were the result of unchecked depression, undiagnosed bipolar disorder and a touch of unmanaged borderline personality disorder thrown in for good measure. Now that I’m managing my condition better, and all manner of emotional outbursts have been curtailed, I’m seeking to be a good corporate citizen and a good manager with several people reporting to me. Holding onto my sanity is sometimes a difficult feat when you’re managing your own emotions, let alone those of people around you in the workplace.
Managing Emotions While Managing Employees
Take one of my direct reports, Debbie. I hired her partly because she’s far more patient than me so I don’t have cause to curse people. However even though she’s spent more years in marketing than I have, Debbie lacks independence and needs approval or permission to make a decision on her own. My negative inner critic says, “You shouldn’t have hired her, you made a bad choice, you’re the one who shouldn’t make decisions.” Like a dutiful student of my own mental health, I eventually dust off the cognitive behavioral therapy skills I’ve learned and tell myself that I’m not perfect – “get a grip, Deltra!”
After I coach myself back into reality, the good manager in me takes over. I tell Debbie that I trust her and that I’m confident in her abilities; she can work without asking my permission for everything. Then I get a call on my mobile asking what I think is a needless question – or the daily barrage of emails about completed tasks – and I descend back into the pity party. “You’re a horrible manager, Deltra; she hasn’t understood anything you’ve told her. Ugh, how did you get into this predicament?” Cue increased self-doubt, frustration, and a touch of anger.
Being a Good Boss is Being an Honest (and Sane) Boss
Perhaps the problem is Debbie, but only slightly. More likely I’m part of the problem, but not because I hired the wrong person. Rather I’m the one who needs approval; who needs to be the “good boss” that keeps employees happy rather than the honestly tough boss who helps them grow. I’m encouraging the behavior I don’t want in others by being too nice to demand (politely, of course) what I want. Coincidentally, I’ve done the same in personal relationships, choosing to be liked even if it means my needs don’t get met.
Lloyd, T. (2011, October 13). The Good Boss: Emotion Regulation in Workplace Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2011/10/the-good-boss-emotion-regulation-in-workplace-relationships