Breath of Clarity

Comment #1: Difficult Emotions

Original Post by LIz Dowling:

A leader is constantly managing the moral and creating a place of empowerment at work. In my opinion, a leader during a difficult conversation is to facilitate the conversation, rather than overpower or act with strong emotion. As we saw in the video from Dalhousie University, the supervisor, heard, understood, agreed and directed conversation to get to a place where they could plan next steps for a win-win situation. If the supervisor instead, was equally offended by the employee’s rude behavior at the meeting and conversed with high emotion, this could have been a blow out. They both could have fed off the energy of the room, said things highly offensive to one another and ruined their relationship and trust for good. I think there’s some wisdom if you feel highly emotional in a situation, to give yourself some time. Let yourself process those emotions so you can walk into a conversation with your colleague with the purpose for a solution, rather than let it turn into emotional revenge.

For my personality, I don’t like having difficult conversations and there has to be a conflict that’s significant for me to bring up. One conflict that came up for me was when my new supervisor told me that she does not take vacation in the Summer and that was her expectation of me, yet this was not addressed in the job posting or interview. I tried making points on how it wasn’t fair but I didn’t think my points were getting across to her. She then yelled at me in front of a room of people and it really ruined our new relationship. It never felt like a conversation but more articulating, here are the rules. A few days later, I still felt how inapproiate their behavior was, I spoke to their supervisor. I told them, I thought it was inappropriate that they yelled at me in an open room at work and I think it’s a misstep that I can’t take vacation. Unfortunately, the supervisor of theirs, dismissed their behavior blaming it as a bad day and trusted her decision on vacation for me. It took us a long time to rebuild that trust as a new employee and that high emotion used by her made me very emotional in response too. There was definitely a sense of distrust for a long time.

“The importance of morale has been recognized by all great leaders” (Manning, 209). One wrong conversation with a colleague or supervisor and that can jepordize the work morale. Manning discusses the state of work from work, play and hell and percentage of time spent in each of those categories. Less than 20% of your job being enjoyable reduces performance (Manning, 209). If several conversations end up being high emotion and leave the colleague in a worse state, this can lead to a decline in their attitude, performance and relationships at work.


Dalhousie University. Year (n.d.). “Having Difficult Conversations: Resisting Change.” Dalhousie University HR. YouTube. July 20, 2018. Video, 7:44.

Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill

My Comment:

Hi Liz,

The leader definitely needs to monitor moral and empower people to maintain their interest.

Amazing illustration of how empowerment needs to be incorporated into difficult conversations. A leader who takes on the role of a facilitator in a difficult conversation will end up truly inviting the employee to participate. In turn, the leader is going to be able to hear more of the employee’s point of view and have a easier time understanding where the other person is coming from. Also, a leader who is not overpowering with strong emotion would decrease chances that the employee will escalate emotions because of the mirroring principle. Your post reminds me that a strong leader has such a massive vision for company success that he or she does not allow interpersonal sensitivity to take over. In the moment, actually taking the pause can be quite the challenge. A leader needs to be so committed to his or her vision which leads to recognizing that the best solution will come to fruition if that pause happens. While it is difficult to be patient in the moment and take that pause, your example illustrates that it takes a significantly longtime to rebuild trust after it is broken from a highly emotional exchange. A leader who cares a lot about efficiency and is interested in getting the most out of their employees needs to see that the most efficient route is to treat the people well from the get go.

Reply by Liz Dowling:


Thanks for the kind words. I liked your comment about how leaders represent the company and determines their success. I saw in a previous job, many ‘worker bees’ were promoted to managers, yet did not have the skill set to lead in that way. They were phenomenal individual workers but the lack of management skills trickled down into employees and proved it’s success through a high turnover rate. I think managing is a big responsibility and staff did not want to dive into the needs/wants/ambitions of their employees to see them succeed in their role.

To follow up on my story, I decided not to follow up and share with my supervisor how much she offended me in a public setting around new colleagues. As someone who takes work seriously, I was emotionally hurt, because I felt like I was seen as a bad employee from the moment. I do wonder, as I reflect now, if I should have followed up and shared how I felt. Yet, being a new employee there were too many unknowns that I never felt comfortable. How would you have handled the situation?