Emotions at Work – watching Danica and Sarah compete

Our emotions are always at work. How we show them while we are working helps define our brand. There were two dramatic examples of displaying emotions at work this weekend that I want to share with you.

This year, three women qualifed to race in the biggest auto race of the year, the Indianapolis 500. I’ve been watching the Indy 500 for years because it’s an interesting study in strategy, performance, branding and human emotion.

Danica Patrick, www.danicaracing.com is the most well-known female race car driver and qualified for her third Indianapolis 500 race. Because she is an ambitious young woman in a male-dominated sport and no doubt because she is beautiful and smart, she has a very high profile and has a lot of attention from fans and the media.

Throughout the race, the commentators cued us in to her conversation with her team and her lead race strategist. During the race, her car didn’t perform well enough for her to lead the race. She was very clear and direct to her team that she needed better performance from her car. She maintained a calm demeanor as she reported her car performance from the track while navigating traffic and difficult turns. In my mind, this was a fantastic display of the multi-tasking talent of women.

She did not finish because another driver bumped into her car in the pit lane and damaged her car so badly that she could not continue in the race. That’s when her emotions got the best of her. She climbed out of her car and started walking angrily down the pit lane to the other driver’s car. Her body posture and facial expressions suggested she was ready to punch him out. Security officials escorted her off the track.

Sarah Fisher,  www.sarahfisher.com, has been racing for years and was the youngest woman ever to qualify for the Indy 500 in her first start. This year, a sponsor bailed out on her and she had to scramble to find another sponsor. She was involved in a crash when another car spun out of control into her path. She cried. She cried in front of the driver that she ran into and she cried on camera. 

Emotions are normal and we all have them.  The press reported on Danica’s fury and Sarah’s frustration. The stories focused on their emotions, not their accomplishments. We live in a world that feeds on drama.

This is a complex issue for women. Should we display emotions in a high profile, highly visible world? What impact does it have on our brand? The media also fuels emotions in high stakes games.

Ultimately, our personal brand will be defined in part by our behavior, which includes our display of emotions in the public. Here are three tips to consider when you are working with others or in the public eye:

1. What are your expectations? What are the possible outcomes to this situation?

2.  What are appropriate codes of conduct when things go your way or when luck turns against you? What experience do you want your clients, your audience, your fans to have of you, regardless of the circumstances?

3. If you do lose control of your emotions, go through a “what worked” and “what didn’t work” exercise to determine what you could do differently next time. Apologize if it’s appropriate.

Displaying emotions is not the worst thing that could ever happen. Human beings operate and make distinctions based on emotions. The questions to answer are:

– “How can you use your emotional feelings to build your brand?” and

– “How can you channel your emotions into useful strategies?”

 Let me know what you think about displaying emotions in the workplace and in the public eye.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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