Emotions and the Rational Man

In my post college young adult years I believed in rational man. While I laughed, cried, got angry, etc. for the most part I believed that dealing thoughtfully and logically with people and events would lead to the right outcome. Disagreements could be worked out rationally. There was no useful place for strong emotions. They just got in the way. It might have been the B-school training. It might have been working in a public accounting firm. (For the record, I was not a working accountant). Of course it might just have been me — making me someone who would likely go to B school and work in a public accounting firm.

While I practiced this philosophy in my life generally, I was certain that it applied at work. Work was where you went to do the job. In my case that meant crunching a bunch of numbers, learning some “cool” regulations and coming up with clever solutions to present to clients. Just the facts, ma’am.

An article in the Wall Street Journal about emotions in the workplace reawakened memories of my journey beyond  rational man. The article discussed the need for leaders to harness emotions in business and to understand the power of the emotional messages they send. Though it was later in my career that I heard the phrase “capturing the hearts and minds of employees” I intuitively learned this lesson as I progressed into greater levels of responsibility at work and began to mature as a person.

It may be helpful to know that I consult with companies about how they pay people. Few things in life are more personal that pay. I eventually learned how important it is to connect with my clients on an emotional level in order for them to better accept my rational work. As I began to manage people I also came to recognize that my people had a need and desire to be encouraged and congratulated when they are doing a good job. When they need correction I am most effective when my approach recognizes their humanity.

I learned what to do and what not to do from the best. One of my first managers called me in to review a report I had drafted. As I worked through the doorway, my report came flying towards me followed by the words, “this is a piece of shit”. A different manager took the time to help me prepare for my part of a big client presentation, made sure that the client knew what my contributions to the project had been and bought me a congratulatory drink after the meeting. For one of these people I would walk through walls to do what needed to be done. The other got my minimal efforts. Guess which one was which.

I believe that I have also evolved beyond pure rational man in my non-work life. I suspect that my wife and son might say that I am generally at one end of the continuum or the other. Too much rational or pure emotion. People that know me casually  probably see me as quiet, relatively unemotional. My friends get to experience more of the range. But we can explore this further in another post.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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