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Taking Your Feelings to Work

(Originally published on June 29,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Anne Kreamer

When I graduated from college in 1977, the world was still neatly divided into two spheres: work and everything else. Work was supposed to be a hyper rational realm of logic, filled with timetables, organizational charts and returns on investment. It was only outside of work that emotions—so dangerously ill defined and unpredictable—were

supposed to emerge.

But from the first day of my first real job, as an administrative assistant at the Park Avenue headquarters of a commercial bank that is now defunct, I realized that emotions were simmering everywhere in the workplace.

My desk, on the hushed, deep pile-carpeted executive floor, was a few feet opposite the restroom doors. (Clearly, I was lowest in the pecking order.) Every few days, one of the three executive women on my half of the floor would rush into the restroom and, after a little too long, re-emerge with the remnants of a good cry still visible on her splotchy face. I also watched men dash into the men’s room and leave a few minutes later, tight-lipped and ashen.

Even as a 21-year-old workplace neophyte, I realized that emotion is a force that underlies all of our behavior. For my book, “It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the

New Workplace,” I spent two years exploring Americans’ attitudes toward e my findings suggest this amended version of Descartes’s famous line: I think and feel, therefore I am.

In the old days—pre-Internet, pre-cellphones—it was a lot easier to believe “work equals rational” and “home equals emotional.” But now that work and home life constantly

bleed into each other, that distinction has become anachronistic and probably self-defeating. People text and e-mail their friends and family members throughout the workday, and they receive messages from colleagues and clients on nights and

weekends and during vacations.

The membranes between private life and work, especially office work, have always been porous, but today employers and employees expect accessibility and accountability pretty much round-the-clock. And whereas old-school office memos and business letters generally weren’t expected to be friendly or candid—that is, human—business e-mails

most definitely are.

Conversely, what used to be considered private behavior can instantly reverberate at work through social networking. People fire off e-mails late at night, only to regret

their tone and intent in the cold light of day. Facebook friends from work can stumble upon wild and crazy pictures from a bachelorette party. Tweets and anonymous mobile video uploads can instantly broadcast unflattering emotional displays by surly customer service employees or misbehaving C.E.O.’s.

The conventional wisdom used to be that we brought home the emotions we couldn’t express at work—snapping (or worse) at blameless partners and children. That is still true, but what’s new is that home life, with all its messy, complicated emotional currents, has become inextricably and undeniably woven into the workplace.

The rulebook for modern office etiquette has yet to be codified. How do we avoid hurting one another’s feelings if everything is supposed to be rational, yet also transparent

and accessible? How can others understand the emotion behind what we’re trying to say in an e-mail if no one takes the time to read beyond the subject line and the first sentence?

And the more we relegate communication to the electronic realm, the greater our longing for face-to-face contact. Our new “flat” organizational structures at work might seem to promote a more hang loose level of emotional expression. But, if anything, flatter organizations tend to require even higher levels of emotional competency and effort

in order to navigate amorphous command structures.

No one is sure where the lines are anymore. Should we high-five an underling? Is it cool to make jokes with the boss? What if we overhear the man in the next cubicle crying?

Clear rules for this new working world simply don’t exist. But one thing is certain. The Millennials, a generation raised with the 24/7 naked emotional transparency of texting and social networking, is now entering the work force by the millions each year. As they replace old-schoolers born in the 1940s and ’50s, there is no turning back to a compartmentalized world.

I like to imagine that if men and women were to express more emotion routinely and easily at work—jokes, warmth, sadness, anger, tears, joy, all of it—then as a people we might not feel so chronically anxious and overwhelmed. By denying the range

of emotional expressiveness intrinsic and appropriate to the workplace, we find ourselves at a loss for how to handle this brave new boundaryless world.

Overtly acknowledging how and in what measure anger, anxiety, fear and pleasure color and shape our working lives can help us manage those emotions and use them to our

benefit, both at work and at home.

 

E-mail: preoccupations@nytimes.com.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 12, 2011, on page BU8 of the New York edition with the headline: Taking Your Feelings to Work.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Classified Cubicle – Employer Wisdom: More hiring tips from friendly companies

(Originally published on Sunday, April 25, 2010)

By C.F. BOBIS

Recently the Classifieds had the opportunity to talk to Ramona “Dot” F. Velasco, senior executive and human resources lead, delivery center network (DCN) for technology, Accenture Delivery Centers in the Philippines. Her career spans 20 years of experience, which includes 9 years as a systems developer and more than 10 years in HR.

Interestingly, Velasco graduated with a Liberal Arts degree, major in Mathematics, and her career seems to show how you can carve your own path out at business process outsourcing centers in the country. Her company, Accenture, is one of the world’s leading management consulting, technology services and outsourcing companies, with more than 177,000 people in 120 countries. Here, she shares answers to some of the most common questions Classifieds readers ask.

What are the job openings you need to fill most often? What are the duties under these jobs, and what are the qualifications for them? What do you look for in an applicant?

We have many opportunities for fresh graduates. For BPO, we need a lot of entry-level recruits for customer contact BPO, as well as for non voice BPO projects, such as health administration and insurance. We also have various openings for accountants in all levels for our Finance and Accounting BPO projects.

For our Technology workforce, we are looking for entry-level and qualified programmers and software testing professionals.

Talent comes in many forms and from many backgrounds. Each project has its own set of qualifications but generally, we look for bright and energetic people with a great appetite for learning. Accenture has always been known for its high standards but  intelligence alone does not determine success in our company, but a combination of intelligence, work ethic, guts and the flexibility to work with diverse people.

Do you have pet peeves when it comes to job applicants?

As we consider them our customers, we treat all our applicants equally. It’s not good to have so-called pet peeves about jobseekers.

Can you share any funny or unique stories (brilliant application strategies, memorably bad applicants) with us?

Memorably good – We interviewed, through an interpreter, and hired two hearing impaired people who will soon become our regular employees. They do payroll processing for our Global Service Center Organization (GSCO) and communicate mainly through e-mail and Office Communicator.  To help the rest of the GSCO team adjust to working with their hearing-impaired teammates, HR had them go through a special orientation and sign language classes

Memorably bad – We interviewed a sales director who didn’t know her company’s sales targets and forecasts, which left us wondering how she can be an asset to any company!

A lot of jobseekers fail at the interview portion; based on your experience, could you give tips to them with regard to how to answer questions, how to dress, and how to conduct themselves?

The interviewer has to make a good and informed decision based on the candidate’s performance during the interview. A job interview is not a game where you must score points or are eliminated when you make a mistake. A good interviewer sees through what an applicant says or does and makes a good decision based on a person’s potential to do well in the company.

Having said that, there are few tips we can give applicants, except to be yourself and be honest. Express yourself confidently.  Answer first before you explain–not the other way around. And dress appropriately for the job and the company you are applying with.

If you don’t make it, it’s only because the interviewer does not want to set you up for failure at the company, and believes there is a better career opportunity for you elsewhere.

What, in your opinion, is/are the biggest mistake/s jobseekers make?

Some applicants focus and give too much value to the salary, giving priority to short-terms rather than long-term gains. The best way to a rewarding career is going through the right experiences. Endeavor to join a growing company that offers varied opportunities for learning and success, and more room for growth and promotion.

What can a jobseeker do to increase his or her chances of getting hired, both at your company and outside your company?

  • Develop your English skills. You may be brilliant but you need to be able to converse, present and sell your ideas in English, the language of business.
  • Research about the company you are applying with.
  • Always try to express, not impress.
  • Focus on your strengths. Are you a creative person? A people-oriented person? An analytical person? Try to focus on what you do best and get into things that will develop those strengths. At interviews emphasize how your strengths can help the company you are applying with to reach its goals.

Would you have openings that non-college graduates, the differently-abled, and those over 35 can fill? If so, then what are these jobs and what do they require of applicants?

Accenture is an equal opportunity employer so we accept anyone as long as they match our requirements and hurdle our recruitment process. Most of our projects accept second-year college-level or graduates of two-year courses, provided they have at least two years of relevant work experience. We also have a project with hearing-impaired people.

Can you give our readers resume and cover letter advice?

Don’t make cover letters. Recruiters have to read through hundreds of resumes and don’t have time to read cover letters. Keep your resume brief but concise, highlight your strengths; you will have the opportunity to talk about yourself in detail during the interview.

Your best advice for a jobseeker is?

Be yourself. Be honest. Try to think of how your strengths can help the company you’re applying at. Always ask “what’s in it for them” – how can you help the company with, for example, your people skills, creativity, analytical skills, or significant previous work experience.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C.F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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