No Hard Feelings: Emotions at work by Liz Foolien and Mollie West Duffy is a tonic for 2023. An uplifting, motivating and refreshingly honest review of the modern workplace and the behaviours within it, the book lays out simple steps for how to identify, understand and harness your emotions at work.
Despite the title suggesting this book would explain why having feelings at work is good or bad, I found it to be more of a guide for how to get the best out of your career by showing that your feelings of tiredness, boredom, burnout, anger, or dislike of colleagues can all be utilised to push you forward. Of note was the guidance on how to support your team to be empowered to actively challenge bullying or bad behaviour.
The book starts with a clear explanation of where the authors have come from – both had experienced disillusionment and burnout in their careers and were forced to take a drastic step back to review what it was that they actually wanted. What follows is their seven ‘new rules for emotion at work’ which includes calls to action like ‘Be less passionate about your job’, ‘Inspire yourself’ and ‘Be selectively vulnerable’.
Overall, the content is mostly comprised of interesting stories and studies, which lead to obvious takeaways like ‘Invest in friendships at work so you look forward to it more’ and ‘Emotionally proofread what you write before hitting send’. None of these suggestions are completely new, but I really enjoyed reading through the book and being gently reminded that there are simple ways to ensure that your workplace interactions are thoughtful and kind. Throughout the book there are drawings and comics of key ideas, which makes it an easy and interesting read.
A key chapter for me was the first section on Health, which explains why being less invested in your work can make you happier and healthier. After the chaos of the 2020s, when the whole world was forced to slow down and then immediately speed back up at a rapid pace while we all softly mumbled ‘But the pandemic isn’t over yet’, it’s extremely liberating to read a strong argument for why we should get off the treadmill of productivity, hard work, long hours and hustle culture. The authors critique the current culture of ‘work martyrs’, in which we feel that work is our whole identity, and happiness is the result of professional achievement. This identity can also bleed over into your interactions with colleagues, making others feel inadequate in comparison to your intense, relentless work schedule. Instead, they suggest that taking breaks, seeing friends, scheduling time off and living in the moment can help to keep your interactions positive, your productivity stable, and your enjoyment high.
Not all chapters are as derisive of work culture though, with another chapter encouraging the reader to build strong work teams who are upstanders, motivated, thoughtful and capable of dealing with difficult situations through gentle practices to validate feelings like asking clarifying questions, having open discussions, and actively dealing with conflict. The book successfully walks the line between being like a friend commiserating with you about a bad job and like a supportive manager who understands your feelings and knows how to respond properly.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fun and funny, the layout of the book with cartoons on nearly every page and personal anecdotes from the authors meant that it was easy to read, and I came away from it with a little more understanding of how to be happier in a workplace than before.
Disclaimer: Please note these reviews are not intended as endorsements or recommendations from the Mental Health Foundation. This feature introduces resources that may be useful for individuals with an interest in bullying prevention, mental health and wellbeing topics.