Transition creates a huge drag on my ability to be productive.

New staff members have to be hired and trained. People have to pick up work done by former staff members while the new person is coming on board.

I know about this concrete drag. But there is also an emotional drag as well.

I have to process my sadness that good people are leaving. I have to grieve and bury the dreams I had shared with people who are leaving, as those dreams were built around the particular talents and skills of people who will no longer be central to the organization.

I have to process my frustration about picking up extra work. I have to process my overwhelm at having extra work to do, and less help to do it.

I need to make space for building trust and camaraderie with new staff people. We need time to dream our new dreams, laugh at our new inside jokes. We need to explore and find the magical sweet spot that speaks to our common interests and our particular mix of skills, that sweet spot that will make our work not just good but amazing.

All this work doesn’t just take time. It also requires a measure of emotional labor.

I have had a practice of excluding emotional labor from my regular work day. If I’ve had a hard day, I talk with a friend over dinner or call someone who I know will have a good insight. I don’t count this as work hours, even if I spend an hour talking about work.

When I only have the occasional hard day, this works okay. My friends don’t get tired of hearing about my job; they usually have their own stories that we process. There’s a mutuality that works.

But when many days are hard, for weeks and months on end, the emotional labor starts to take a toll on both me and my social circles. The hours of unpaid labor add up. I start to resent my job. My friends start to ask pointed questions about whether my job is bad for my health.

How do we build emotional labor in to the work day, particularly in times of transition when we know it’s absolutely necessary? How does the offloading of emotional labor to our support circles contribute to an unsustainable work place? Does keeping all the emotional processing within the workplace actually work? Or does it just turn into a social worker mess of over processing?


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