WIN NYC Event Recap: WIN x SYP x IDEO on Emotions in the Workplace

Do emotions belong in the workplace? While we’re often taught “definitely no,” this isn’t a realistic expectation or rule – to be emotional is to be human. So, how do we manage our inevitable emotions at work, interpret them, use them to better collaborate and navigate conflict, and leverage them to ultimately to create better things?

In February, WIN NYC hosted an event at SYPartners and IDEO for an evening on feelings and the workplace. Luckily, long-time WIN member, Mollie West Duffy, recently wrote a book on this topic with Liz Fosslien called No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. Mollie shared some of her learnings from writing this fascinating book, and led us in discussions and exercises to improve our own emotional awareness and intelligence.

We’ve laid out some top takeaways below, but we highly recommend you read Mollie and Liz’s book for a holistic view on the power of emotions at work. We also suggest you take a look at their emotional assessment guide to better understand emotions and you, your team, and your organization.


Our top takeaways:

Your Emotions & Health

Health is wealth. While a fast-paced, always-on lifestyle may cause you to forget this crucial fact, protecting your health is equivalent to protecting your future success. If you’re feeling depleted, understanding and smoothly acting on your emotions can be, take breaks and let yourself recharge. As obvious as this may seem, we often forget to prioritize down time, which so crucially allows for restoration of the mind, perspectives, energy, and to maintain mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Your Emotions & Motivation

Keeping yourself motivated is also imperative to maintaining emotional health. Liz and Mollie recommend you create autonomy for yourself by making small changes to your schedule where possible. For example, work from a different place than just your desk, all day every day. Moreover, take the initiative to job craft by volunteering your free time and over time, shift your day-to-day responsibilities to the things you most enjoy.


Your Emotions & Decision Making

Remember that listening to your feelings is not the same thing as acting on them. Don’t ignore your feelings – instead, pause, explore what you’re responding to, objectively analyze the relevant information, and leverage them to make constructive decisions.

Your Emotions & Teams

One of the greatest gifts you can share with your co-workers is actively fostering psychological safety. Psychological safety allows everyone to feel accepted and respected, and therefore to think more creatively and take risks. Liz and Mollie recommend you build this environment by initiating and rewarding open discussions, removing all condescension, and making it known that it is safe to make mistakes.


Your Emotions & Culture

Much like cultivating psychological safety, you have the power to foster a positive work culture with your emotions by being kind. Emotions – both positive and negative – are contagious and everyone, no matter how junior or senior, has the power to impact their workplace culture. Create a feeling of belonging for others through small acts, like saying hello, inviting someone to lunch, and making new hires feel especially welcomed.

Your Emotions & Leadership

Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability when leading, but balance it with a clear path forward. If we admit our mistakes and show weakness, we encourage our colleagues to be their authentic selves as well. Play to your team’s strengths and weaknesses to create a dynamic working environment.

This event highlighted such an important fact to us: emotions are an inextricable element of the workplace. By pretending they don’t exist or aren’t happening, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. Instead, by feeling our feelings, calmly interpreting them, and using them when reacting, we set ourselves up for greater connections with others, work, and outcomes. We hope you took this away from the evening, too. Do you have tips to share on this topic from your own experience? Read the book and think we should elevate a takeaway? Drop us a line at


Written by Emma Anderson, Katie Burwick, and Lauren Smith. Photos by Katie Burwick.

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