Managing Emotions in the Workplace
Emotions play a significant role in our day to day working environment. It’s where we spend most of our time and it’s what consumes much of our thoughts. Our thoughts trigger our feelings and feelings trigger the emotions. Managing emotions in the workplace is essential.
In the modern workplace, we all experience information overload, constant change, and scarce resources— so it should not come as a surprise that this environment is an emotionally charged and complex one. What we also forget, in the middle of our hectic days, is that the way we react to emotions at work will add to that complexity. Emotional intelligence in the workplace, particularly in our Leaders, is precisely what all organisations need.
We all know that at a management level, emotional intelligence and self-awareness skills are more valuable than technical skills. A typical manager spends as much as 40% of his or her time dealing with conflict between team members (Washington Business Journal, May 2005). This statistic is staggering.
While conflict itself can be very useful to promote creativity and innovation when dealt with and encouraged in the right way, consider the lost productivity as a result of not having the right framework and training to channel and harness conflict in a positive manner.
This is why the most valuable leaders in any organization are those who adapt and are efficient at handling emotional situations. Emotional intelligence is essential to anyone who wants to develop, lead and motivate others.
You cannot lead effectively until you learn how to understand and respond to emotions at work – and you cannot manage others emotions at work until you learn how to manage your own.
5 Steps to Managing Emotions in the Workplace:
Emotions at their core are involuntary, often physiological, reactions that are at a subconscious level. When you are scared your pulse quickens and your heart feels like it’s pounding. It is an immediate reaction based on your ingrained paradigms. The good news is that you can learn to understand why you feel the way you do and choose to respond, rather than react, in ways that are healthy and constructive.
Here are five key things we can all do to better manage our emotions at work:
1. Learn to accept and value emotions at work. We cannot prevent or ignore emotions, so we need to accept them and value them. When channeled correctly, emotions at work can be an enormous source of strength. You just have to ask yourself which emotions are constructive and which are destructive.
2. Pay attention to your body. Your body usually knows what emotion you are feeling before your conscious mind does. That’s because the body is the instrument of the subconscious mind. Take a moment to think about your physical sensations (that pounding heart, for example). This is your chance to diffuse negative feelings before they get the better of you.
3. Pay attention to your instincts. You know that gut feeling that tells you when something just isn’t right? This raw information may be the most valuable and underused by people. Is your instinct telling you to get out of an uncomfortable situation? Are you sensing that a colleague is stressed about something? Instincts are the messages our bodies send to keep us out of danger, give us insight into complex interpersonal relationships, and help us generate spontaneous solutions to tricky situations. Feel them, trust them and listen to them.
4. Pay attention to your perceptions. Wayne Dwyer said it best – “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change”. What you feel reveals how you perceive an event or action, and much of the time our perceptions have little to do with the other person involved. Make it a habit to question your perceptions and don’t make assumptions. Ask yourself where they come from and whether there is evidence that they are correct. Always challenge yourself to look at any situation from a different angle.
5. Regulate your emotions at work. You cannot – and should not – stop experiencing emotions at work, but you can learn to use them more effectively. First, recognize that you will only fuel a negative situation by adding negative emotions to it. Then take several deep breaths (which calms the nervous system) and ask yourself, what can I do to diffuse this situation for myself or for others? What do I really want as an end result? This may be as simple as acknowledging another’s viewpoint (e.g., “I see why this situation must be difficult for you…”) and calmly offering help (“Can we try a different approach…”). By focusing on a rational solution and on the end in mind, you can not only regulate negative emotions at work but also redirect them into positive action.
These are the first steps to understanding and managing your own emotions in the workplace, skills that will put you on the path to stronger overall emotional intelligence. Once you internalize these basic skills, you will be ready to use your emotional intelligence to make your work environment healthier, happier and more productive for everyone.