How To Control And Manage Emotions In The Workplace
21 July, 2020
7 min read

We all would agree to the quote-

"Control your emotions before they start controlling you."

As humans, it is hard for us not to be emotional. It is generally good to be emotional in certain situations of life. Still, it can be hugely damaging not to control personal emotions and recognize emotional signals in the workplace. And, we all have been in one of those "emotional" situations at work.

A workplace is a professional environment, and learning to manage emotions in the workplace is very important. And since today's workplaces are challenging places riddled with workplace stressors like heavy workloads and crunching deadlines. We have to deal with reorganizations, mergers, transfers, and individual job changes, and thus, learning to manage our emotions has become ever more critical.

It could be a conflict between you and your best friend (your colleague), or it could be you feeling low for some other reason, your presentation which just got canceled after so much of hard work. There can be hundreds of different reasons which can make you feel bad for yourself and others.

Similarly, employers need to manage their employees' emotions as they can impact organizational behavior and give rise to a negative work environment.

Moreover, some employers require their employees to perform emotional labor, i.e., regulating their emotions according to the organization's requirements. Such kinds of suppression of emotions and surface acting can lead to high levels of stress and give rise to negative emotions, making it crucial to manage emotions properly.

Thus, whether you are an employee or an employer, you must channel your emotions in the right manner.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, says that it is essential to recognize our reactions and how our emotions affect our actions and others' actions to succeed in today's work environment. When we manage our emotions correctly, we're better able to deal with the changes and challenges that our jobs give us. It can help us in many ways, like adapting to a new manager or co-worker, working in a team, or handling a difficult conversation with your employees or co-worker.

Now, let's talk about the emotions that seem to be the most familiar to us. According to a 1997 study by Prof Cynthia Fisher from Bond University, School of Business, frustration, worry, anger, dislike, and unhappiness are the most common negative emotions felt at work. All of these leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

From a psychologist's point of view, it is never good to curtail or suppress positive or negative emotions. That being said, our emotions need to be monitored and managed to operate effectively in different situations.

The Top 5 Negative Emotions In The Workplace and Tips To Handle Them

1. Frustration

Frustration or irritation is one of the most common negative emotions amidst the complexities of a productive work environment. Frustration can develop from a lot of circumstances including-

  • A lost project deal.
  • Lack of resources affecting our ability to perform well
  • Limited promotional opportunities that make us feel trapped in the same work for years.
  • A problematic manager or colleague who neglects our idea to improve the quality of work.
  • Or simply when we've just been on hold on the phone for a long time.

Whatever might be the reason, it's essential to cope quickly with feelings of frustration before it turns chronic. Else, it can lead to more negative emotions like anger, which is a much more complicated emotion to control.

Here are some tips to handle frustration in the workplace.

  1. Evaluate why you are frustrated and think one positive thing about your current situation.
  2. Talk about your problems with a superior. Let them know your concerns so that they can do something to address them.
  3. Consider your previous experiences with frustration. You will understand that this, too, shall pass.

2. Worry

At a reasonable level, most of us know that worrying doesn't accomplish much. But, change, and the feeling of loss of control can often trigger worries. It makes us feel nervous and insecure at work, profoundly affecting our self-confidence.

The typical changes that cause a feeling of nervousness are:

  • When you get a new manager at work.
  • When you are assigned a new project to handle.
  • Learning that your company might just downsize or merge with another one.

Making ways to cope with this feeling is a constructive way to take power in times of doubt.

Here's what we can do to solve this problem.

  1. First, ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?"
  2. Prepare yourself to accept the worst.
  3. Find out how to improve on the worst, should it happen?
  4. Brainstorm ways to get all the facts in an objective way.
  5. Generate potential solutions to the problem.
  6. Get out of it and try not to get surrounded by them easily again.
  7. Try out some physical relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises.

3. Anger

Anger is one of the most common non-verbal communication in the workplace. If you find yourself being yelled at, or if someone slams the door right on your face, you know it's anger.

The difference in opinion is one of the major causes of anger at work. Harassment, favoritism, and rejection are probably the other best-known examples of workplace anger and hostility.

Some of the common forms of anger are-

  • Being unnecessarily critical of others
  • Bullying others or violating rules.
  • Being too frank and disrespectful.
  • Being skeptical and sarcastic.

We can use the following measures to contain anger in the workplace:

  1. Recognize the early signs of anger. Note that, it entirely depends on you how you choose to react upon a situation. Preventing your anger is the main thing.
  2. As already pointed earlier, deep breathing exercise can stop your angry thoughts and bring you back on the positive track.
  3. Hold on and look at yourself. Close your eyes and imagine how you would look when you scream at your colleague. Will your face turn red? Will you look too rude to talk with? Will you want to have a wrong impression on others just for a momentary feeling? Probably, not.
  4. Try to set an excellent example with professionalism, which will motivate people to improve themselves.
  5. Prioritize safety, if a person is acting physically aggressive. Maintain a safe distance and an unblocked way out to the exit.
  6. Avoid unnecessary non-verbal communication (like pointing fingers) that can be misinterpreted as a threat.
  7. Be empathetic and understanding with each other.

4. Dislike

In a workspace, it is common to have someone we don't like. We work with many different kinds of people who have diverse backgrounds and personalities. From time to time, we find ourselves working closely with or even reporting to someone we don't like from a personal viewpoint.

It can also be-

  • A demanding boss who rarely recognizes your efforts.
  • A co-worker who doesn't prefer a fair share of work.
  • All those rude phone calls if you are in a customer service job.

However, being professional under any circumstance is the most important factor, no matter how.

Here are some ideas for working with people whom you don’t like-

  1. Treat everyone with respect and courtesy as that’s the way you would like to be treated.
  2. You don’t have to end up as friends but you can find a good way to communicate and work together, without hurting anyone.
  3. If the other person is rude or unprofessional, gently refuse to be treated that way. Express your feelings calmly.
  4. The worst thing you can do is to be defensive. Ask yourself whether you really want to engage with someone who doesn’t worth your time and attention. You can use that effort and energy on getting some better things done.
  5. Accept the fact that you can’t get on with everyone in the workplace.

5. Unhappiness

It's most likely to affect your productivity. Dealing with disappointment and unhappiness will lower your energy and risk-taking capabilities. Thus, it will hold you back from all your accomplishments.

There can be several of feeling unhappy or low at work. Some of them are-

  • Not being rewarded and recognized for your achievements.
  • Circumstances in your personal life.
  • Poor relationship with co-workers
  • Unachieved goals.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide To Rewards and Recognition

All of these can lead to feelings of worthlessness and despair, and if left unchecked, it can, with time, turn into depression.

Here are some constructive steps you may take to dealing with unhappiness:

  1. Identify the problem which is making you unhappy. Brainstorm ways to resolve it and waste no time in doing so.
  2. Relook into your goals. If needed, readjust them. Nothing is more important than your happiness.
  3. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Communication is the key. The more you share your feelings, the happier you will be.
  4. Understand the fact that not everything is your cup of tea. You will have to compromise and let things go their way.
  5. Wear a smile because believe it or not, it’s more powerful than you know.

Should we focus only on the negative emotions in the workplace?

Probably, yes. Because most people don't need techniques to control their positive emotions, feelings of happiness, anticipation, sympathy, or optimism generally do not damage or affect us. That's why, as long as we express positive feelings constructively and professionally, it's nice to have them on the job.

The Bottom Line

There may be instances at work when you have to deal with negative emotions. Learning to manage such emotions is of utmost importance in today's competitive work environments, and the inability to do so can result in unwanted circumstances. Also, expressing positive emotions can have a positive impact at work and outside of it.

The proper management and channeling of emotions require effort and learning, but it can be very beneficial. It can help us recognize problems before they arise and maturely handle situations with control over our emotions.

This article was written by Shah Alif Ahmed and Susmita Sarma, who work as digital marketers at Vantage Circle. For any queries reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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