Does being professional mean being more emotional at work in the new era of leadership?

“You may be angry about what’s happening to other people, but don’t be angry about what’s happening to yourself, or your identity group at the workplace. That is still not acceptable.” 

This advice by Prof. Tina Opie during her guesting on the Harvard Business Review podcast ‘Women at Work’. simply fascinated me. Prof. Opie is a DEI consultant, visiting scholar at Harvard Business School, and management professor at Babson College. Prof. Opie states that in 2022, it is still not acceptable to show your emotions about your own situation at work. 

Are people more emotional at work?

Encouraging people to bring their ‘authentic self’ to the workplace became a trend in the past few years. This trend raised to a peak while people massively worked from home during Covid-19 pandemics. 

We all witnessed people babysitting and schooling their kids while being in a video call. People showed up in their pyjamas and sweatshirts for meetings. Some people hold their pets on their working desk and their pets walked in front of cameras during virtual meetings.

But some of us also witnessed more often people breaking down into tears. People being stressed because they can’t find a common language with their partner about division of unpaid work during paid work hours at home. 

“Work is not a therapy”

Prof. Opie argues that work is not a therapy, and that you shouldn’t look to people you work with to work through your emotional issues. She emphasises that showing emotions about what’s happening to other people or people outside of your organisation might be seen as positive and leadership treat. On the other hand, showing your emotions about what’s happening to yourself, or your identity group at the workplace is still not acceptable. Talking with your family, friends and psychotherapist would be more strategic way to go about it. 

“If you decide to express your emotions, see if there are other people that feel the same way and make it a collective voice: this is how we feel.” 

I think that we are witnessing a shift in what was traditionally considered ‘professional’ at the workplace. Unfortunately, I also see in practice that we are far from being able to show all our emotions at the workplace. Until we get there, you do have the power to decide for yourself does being professional means being more emotional at work. You do have the power to influence the new era of leadership!


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