News | March 5, 2022

National Reading Month: The Power of Emotions at Work reviewed

By Liz Norvey DLA Disposition Services PaCE Program

Editor’s note:  March is National Reading Month. Everyday reading increases knowledge and develops personal and professional skills. Throughout the month, the DLA Disposition Services Pathways to Career Excellence program participants are sharing insights from books* they recently finished. 
*No official Department of Defense endorsement implied

Book cover image. Black background with rainbow, gradient letters that read, "The Power of Emotions at Work."
The Power of Emotions at Work
The Power of Emotions at Work by Karla McLaren, M.Ed.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220304-D-D0441-302
It seems to be a common belief that emotions have no place at work and that they should be left at home and ignored until you return at the end of the day.

The book, “The Power of Emotions at Work,” by Karla McLaren, takes a different stance.

According to McLaren, “emotions are not something to be avoided, but useful indicators of what could be improved in the world around us.”

In “The Power of Emotions at Work,” McLaren introduces four separate emotion families: anger, fear, sadness and happiness. Within these families, there are more specific emotional labels. For example, anger includes the subsections of guilt or shame, apathy and hatred.

McLaren refers to these emotions as “tools” because they provide us with the knowledge we need to fix the problems causing the emotion. In the case of anger, it is often a disrespect for set boundaries.

McLaren warns against putting any special emphasis on one emotion family, as it can lead to a lack of balance. This can be seen in the forming of a Toxic Positivity Bias, which forms when a workplace pushes the happiness family above all else, leading to an inability to express any other emotion. When this happens, there may be a lack of communication to keep everyone happy, creating an ignorance of the problems everyone may be facing.

Emotional families may be a familiar concept to many readers, but McLaren introduces a new perspective by not labelling the emotions as “positive” or “negative.”

It’s refreshing to see emotions treated as indicators of an environment of a change.

McLaren’s case studies and discussions of the varying reactions people have to emotionally charged, work-related situations, presents the idea of listening to how people are feeling. Often times this leads to a better understanding of what is wrong and how to fix it much quicker than other methods.  

These emotional families are considered a distraction at the workplace but, repressing emotions for most of your waking hours every week can lead to a whole host of issues, ranging from demotivation, depression and burnout.

In workplaces like this, McLaren identifies keystones, which are important roles that people take on in order to keep an unhealthy workplace functioning. An example of a keystone is the Ambassador, who will take over when the onboarding process in a workplace is insufficient, taking new employees under their wing and guiding them through not only the official onboarding process, but also helping them become a part of the social workplace.

While the keystones are obviously useful, particularly to a workplace that may be lacking, they are an indication that there is a need for change.

McLaren advises that supervisors should appreciate keystones for their work but fix what made them necessary behind the scenes.

I personally have seen keystones in several places of work and McLaren’s observations of what creates them are spot-on.

The Power of Emotions at Work was published in 2021 and includes up-to-date research on psychology in the workplace. It includes discussions regarding the pandemic and all of the emotions that’s come with it, which is extremely relevant now. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone, regardless of whether they’re a supervisor or not, and many aspects of the book can be applied to the reader’s personal life, as well.

“The Power of Emotions at Work” is available through LMS/Skillsoft for DLA associates.