Managing Emotions: Episode Quiz

1.
When Rebecca met with Allan and received news about her team's latest numbers:
  • Rationale: As the team leader, it is Rebecca's responsibility to communicate bad news about the project. To avoid this difficult task would be seen by her team as "passing the buck" and not fulfilling her leadership role. They might perceive it as disrespectful for her to not communicate problems to them directly.

  • Rationale: Although tempting, avoiding a difficult situation usually just leads to an even more difficult situation in the future. Especially in a serious situation like the one facing her team, honest and open communication - no matter how uncomfortable - is almost always best. It would have been unrealistic for Rebecca to try to convince Allan to change his mind, and he may have been shocked at her attempts to strategize herself out of a tricky situation.

  • Rationale: Although she is the manager and team leader, it is understandable (not to mention unavoidable) for Rebecca to have an emotional reaction to the bad news about the project. As long as she communicates about her negative emotions respectfully, it is definitely appropriate for her to share her thoughts with Allan. In fact, it will be helpful for him to know exactly how Rebecca feels about the situation.

2.
Before talking with her team about the news Allan gave her about the budget, Rebecca:
  • Rationale: A manager should not hesitate to seek support or advice from others, especially in emotionally charged situations. Sometimes those who are at a slightly greater emotional distance from a situation can provide guidance that is freer from the distorting effects of negative reactions.

  • Rationale: Avoiding a difficult conversation or meeting usually only increases your stress levels. It also wouldn't be fair to keep the whole team worrying about what the news might be, Furthermore, with an unresolved stressful situation on her mind, Rebecca probably wouldn't have been able to relax and sleep well, anyway, and would have returned to work in an ever worse emotional state. In emotionally charged moments, it can be helpful to give people a little time to cool down, but unnecessarily postponing action leads to ineffective management.

  • Rationale: It wouldn't have been fair to single out one team member to face this pressure, and might have put that person in an awkward position. The other team members could easily perceive it as Rebecca making a special deal with one person, trying to buy support in a difficult situation. Furthermore, speaking privately with one team member might just be a way to postpone the inevitable group meeting, and would have been an ineffective way for Rebecca to address her anxiety. She would also have to ask herself whether she was trying to use personal connections to defuse the blame she might face from the group.

3.
When meeting with her team and providing them with the news about the MacDonald-Thompson project, Rebecca:
  • Rationale: This strategy of "finding a common enemy" is not a good way to build a strong team, and it would be disrespectful to Allan. Rather than focusing on negative emotions on a scapegoat, Rebecca needed to direct her team's energy toward seeking a solution to the project budget problem. If she disagreed with Allan's concerns, she should have told him in person.

  • Rationale: Rebecca appears to have misinterpreted the strength of the project in terms of budget, and her confidence led her to give positive feedback that turned out in part to be unwarranted. Apologizing for her handling of the situation would be appropriate, and would help build the trust and confidence of her team. Managers often worry that apologies make them look weak, but actually it's the fear of admitting when you're wrong that demonstrates weakness. Apologizing when appropriate helps increase the loyalty and engagement of your team and shows that you know you're not infallible.

  • Rationale: This would have been misleading. A great project is only great if it fits within all the necessary parameters, including budget. It would be disrespectful to her team not to be fully candid about the negative news from Allan. Rebecca would also seem as though she is fearful of taking any blame for the situation, acting as a cheerleader for the team even in a genuinely troublesome situation, and thereby trying to make Allan look like the "bad guy" rather than accepting that there were legitimate weaknesses in the project.

4.
When Rebecca gave the news to her team, and began to see the range of emotional reactions, she should have:
  • Rationale: This approach would not be helpful, because it would invalidate the team's emotional experiences. It would, in fact probably exacerbate the team's emotional reactions, and make them angry at Rebecca for not accepting their natural human responses to a difficult situation.

  • Rationale: By stating right from the beginning that they would be likely to have a range of emotional reactions to her news, Rebecca would not only validate and convey respect for the teams' emotions, but would also help soften the blow. Accepting and even encouraging open communication about negative emotions would help the team get past them and back to work on salvaging their project.

  • Rationale: Avoiding or deflecting an emotional situation due to your own discomfort rarely allows you to escape it unscathed. Rather, the problem only becomes worse because those involved feel as though they are not being supported. Ending a meeting to avoid negative emotions sends the message that emotions are unwanted and invalid.