4 Tips for Controlling Emotions at Work

We’ve all faced stress at work. Maybe a project you have been toiling on day and night was suddenly cancelled, perhaps a client berated you, seemingly out of nowhere, or a close work associate was laid off unexpectedly. No matter the situation, a different response is required in a professional environment as opposed to your personal one. While it might be appropriate to start crying or yelling in the privacy of your own home, the same is not true when faced with emotionally-charged situations at work. It’s necessary to understand your emotions and how you typically respond to certain situations in order to develop self-awareness and generate strategies for managing emotions in the workplace. Otherwise, you just might find your professional reputation damaged and your productivity reduced.

Feeling Under Pressure While Remaining Cool and Collected

It can be very difficult to manage your emotions properly when, as professionals, we are tasked with operating in workplaces that face budget cuts, staff layoffs, and departmental changes. However, it is so important that you learn how to keep your cool, no matter what is happening on the job. Keep in mind that while many workplace situations might remain outside of your control, the one thing you are in charge of is your emotions.

Common Negative Emotions at Work

In the book, “Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel, and How Should We Measure It?” author and Bond University professor of management, Cynthia Fisher, noted that the following are the most common negative emotions professionals usually experience in the workplace:

  • Frustration/Irritation
  • Worry/Nervousness
  • Anger/Aggravation
  • Dislike
  • Disappointment/Unhappiness

These emotions fuel our thought processes, which then simultaneously cause feelings of arousal and promote certain actions to be taken and vice versa. When a negative emotion takes over it acts as a trigger, which leads to a response. The catch here is understanding how we react to certain situations, and developing self-management skills that help prevent negative situations from occurring and ultimately, suffering the consequences.

Self-Management Strategies

  1. Learn to accept and value emotions at work. You can’t prevent emotions, so you need to accept them. When channeled correctly, workplace emotions can be a great source of strength.
  2. Pay attention to your body and be aware of arousal signals. Your body usually knows what emotion you are feeling before your mind does. Take a moment to think about physical sensations (tense hands or back, a racing heart, sweating hands, a lump in your throat). This is your chance to diffuse negative feelings before they get the better of you.
  3. Pay attention to your perceptions. What you feel reveals how you perceive an event or action, and sometimes our perceptions have little to do with the person or people involved. Make it a habit to question your perceptions and assumptions. Ask yourself where these ideas come from and whether they are correct.
  4. Work on regulating your emotions at work. It’s not advised to simply go on autopilot and be an emotionless robot—but you can to learn to use emotions more effectively. Recognize that you will only fuel a bad situation if you add negative emotions to it. Practice calming your nervous system, take deep breaths, and ask yourself how you can diffuse a stressful situation. This might be as simple as acknowledging an opposing viewpoint or calmly offering another person your help. Look for rational solutions as this can allow for redirection and the creation of positive action.

For more information on developing skills for handling emotions and generating enhanced emotional intelligence, visit www.juliekantor.com and contact me today.