To express or repress – that’s the question!

To express or repress – that’s the question!

There you are. Sitting in a meeting with your team and suddenly one of them seems really angry about what you think is a pretty minor issue. They’ve sort of got a point; in an ideal world you would have responded by now but you’ve had good reasons for the delay. It’s not a priority and they know that. Your diary has been stuffed with important and urgent things, all of which they know about and some of which they put there! Giving you a hard time, in front of the whole team stinks! Particularly since it’s completely out of the blue!!

Or perhaps you asked for an update on a project or be part or discussion about an aspect of a campaign because you had ideas you wanted to table. But in response, your colleague’s burst out saying it was completely unreasonable!

What just happened???

Why did they suddenly get so het up over such a relatively minor issue? Why are they so angry at the suggestion they provide regular updates?

There are almost certainly plenty of reasons why they need a response now, why the updates are a pain or difficult to provide, all of which will vary from person to person and some of which are totally valid. But why were they so explosive? Why did it feel like they were going into battle rather than reasonably expressing their views or needs?

Again, each person is different and it’s dangerous to generalise but repression will probably have a role to play, and this is where your organisational culture can have an impact.

Everyone has views and needs and some of us are better at articulating them than others. As anyone who knows me will confirm, expressing my views is not a problem for me but, and this might surprise some, stating my needs is a completely different story. The result is I tend to shut them down and put them to one side. I take them out of the equation. I’m not alone in this; most people do it, to a greater or lesser degree. And of course, if we’re going to live and work with others we must comprise; some accommodation is necessary.

But significant, repeated repression often leads to an explosion of some kind. You can’t keep it contained all the time. What’s confusing for everyone around the individual, and especially you if you’re their boss, is the explosion might bear no relation to the feelings they’re repressing. It might just be that this is something, unconsciously, they feel they can express or it’s the final drop that’s made them overflow!

The ideal is for them to find a way to identify their needs, express them in an effective way and get them met. That may take a lot of hard work with a therapist so as a business it’s possibly not your problem. The dilemma you might have though, is they’re good at their job yet their explosions are destructive.

Getting your culture right can make a difference and it will certainly help those who can express their needs, albeit with some reticence. Make it open, seek and welcome feedback. Be interested in the people who work for you and always listen and respond to input. That’s not the same as acting on it but knowing you’re being heard makes a huge difference.

I am training as an integrative psychotherapist, working as a counsellor and have over 25 years’ experience in PR and communication, including internal communications.

Give me a call if you want to find out more.

Share