Imagine that each and every day you are wearing an invisible backpack. And that the people you interact with either add to it with positive or negative emotions. At the end of the day, how heavy is your emotional backpack?

This is a metaphor that stems from our Connecting With Respect program that we lead for organizations. In this program, we ask participants to explain (in behavioral and actionable) terms what respect and disrespect feel like. We then go on to explain how those behaviors create the emotions that end up in our backpack at the end of the day and how it is all related to your level of productivity in the workplace.

So what does respect feel like?

Often we hear answers like worthy or esteemed, for example from participants. Those are pretty positive emotions.

Now imagine those same emotions in your backpack at the end of the day. Last week, while facilitating this program with a colleague, he shared with me his take on this. Let’s say those positive emotions are actually helium balloons in your backpack. Just think how uplifted you would feel at the end of the day.

On the other hand, what does disrespect feel like?

This question gets a lot of impassioned responses in our program, as expected. People tend to have more vivid recollections of disrespectful feelings and experiences. We hear words like insignificant, stupid, unimportant and more.

Pretty harsh stuff. And pretty heavy stuff in your backpack, right? As my colleague from before describes these, they are like bricks in your backpacks that really weigh you down.

Now let’s consider how your productivity is affected

How productive do you think you are if you are walking around with a backpack of bricks – or “crap bricks” as our latest client declared them last week during our program? I’d say probably not that productive or even motivated to want to work.

Now, let’s look at the backpack filled with helium balloons and positive emotions. I bet you’re feeling better already and uplifted. You may even be excited to go to work and are your most productive.

Which backpack do you want to wear all day? I’m guessing the one with the positive emotions and helium balloons that makes you the most productive at work.