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Emotion is key to corporate competitive edge

Got that sinking feeling at work? You’re not alone, according to experts.

Stress and uncertainty at work are creating a generation of ‘iceberg employees’ whose emotions are so suppressed that they struggle to interact effectively with colleagues and customers.

More hours and less pay combined with growing concerns over job security in an increasingly volatile market are causing growing numbers of Britons to bury their feelings in order to cope with the pressure. Deadlines, late nights and increased expectations, as well as uncertainty over the future, are rendering some professionals “totally incapable” of dealing with simple problems without a “significant” fall in performance.

Others have become so blinkered on their job through pressure or worry that they have lost the inclination to chat to co-workers or talk openly with their teams and managers. Offices could become “toxic working environments” within 10 years unless bosses take steps to reduce workplace stress and add some fun back into the workplace, experts fear.

The worrying trend is fuelled by an outdated ‘stiff upper lip’ corporate model that expects employees to stifle emotions and carry on. Despite the need to speak about their experiences and concerns, they fear being labelled as “unprofessional” and putting their position within the company at risk.

The UK is in the midst of a stress epidemic, brought about by long hours and excessive workloads.

Over 10.5 million working days are lost to stress-related illness each year, according to a recent study by the Trade Union Congress. Research conducted by HR consultancy Towers Watson, meanwhile, found that over half (57 per cent) of highly-stressed employees felt disengaged from their work.

In response, larger companies have introduced mindfulness and resilience training, which has been shown to improve productivity and work day retention. But these focus on specific pressures rather than the ongoing challenges of the ‘daily grind’ and businesses of all sizes need to do more to “break down the emotional dam”, Bharwaney said.

Without emotional resilience training, people in stressful and volatile positions risk becoming iceberg employees – folk with little personality, warmth or passion for their work who could potentially damage customer relationships and the company’s bottom line.

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