Meet Mollie West Duffy, a Garfield High School graduate and workplace culture expert. She and co-author Liz Fosslien have written a book about emotions in the workplace, which they will talk about June 22 at Town Hall Seattle.
What do you do? I’m the co-author of “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work,” with Liz Fosslien. I also help organizations of all sizes develop good workplace culture as an organizational designer at IDEO, a global design and innovation firm.
What has your career path been like? I grew up in Seattle, and am a proud alumna of Garfield High School. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an architect, but after a college summer internship at a Seattle architecture firm, I decided I was more interested in the people inside the buildings than the buildings themselves.
I majored in organizational studies at Brown, and then did research at Harvard Business School in organizational behavior. While there, I took a class on design thinking and loved design as a way to take the intangible organizational change work I was doing and make it tangible. So I got my master’s in design at Parsons, and then started working at IDEO.
Why a book about emotions at work? So often at work we feel we need to be “professional” and so we ignore or suppress our emotions. But we’re still humans at work, and so we still have emotions, whether we like it or not. Liz and I wanted to learn how we could embrace and harness our emotions at work to be happier, healthier and more productive.
In the book, we share expert advice, comic illustrations and personal insights, answering questions like: How can we embrace emotion at work without letting it run wild? Where’s the line between sharing and oversharing at work? How can we create a culture of belonging? How much vulnerability should leaders display? And is it possible that caring less about our jobs could be the key to success?
What surprises people about what you do? People are surprised that there is a body of research about emotions at work. For example, one of my favorite research studies shows that emotions can go viral in an office. It happens like this: I come home irritated because of my crabby colleague and snap at my husband. He catches my bad mood and goes to work the next day equally irritable. My colleague’s sour attitude can then spread to my husband’s co-workers.
Also, people are surprised that it is possible to change workplace culture, since when you’re in a negative work environment, it feels like this is how it will be forever.
What’s the best part of the work? I love studying group dynamics, like how people interact in meetings, why is there conflict in a team, and how can organizations create better workplace cultures. The best days are when I can help make people happier at work. With some clients, I get to see a light bulb go off in their heads when they realize that work can be fun and meaningful.