Managing Emotions in the Workplace

What place do emotions have in the workplace? What role do they serve? What benefits (if any) do they bring? I hear these questions often, and I can completely empathize with the efforts to put emotions in their appropriate place.

In personal settings, feelings can be a sensitive subject; for this reason, it is no surprise that in professional settings – feelings are an even touchier topic. Emotions are unpredictable, sometimes very distracting, enlightening, and everything in between. How emotions are expressed, when they are expressed and who expresses them – all make a world of difference.

As a leader or manager, regardless of your personal stance on emotions, it is professionally wise to determine how you plan to address your own emotions, how you plan to respond to others’ emotions, and how you plan to approach emotionally charged situations. Although you can’t plan for every emotion or experience, the reason I still recommend taking a proactive stance (as much as possible) is because when emotions get involved, sometimes our logic goes out the window.

So, here are 5 of my suggestions on how to manage emotions in the workplace.

  • 1. Accept that emotions are part of reality. – Ignoring or denying that emotions will happen and do happen will only escalate your anxiety when emotions arise on the scene.
  • 2. Acknowledge when strong emotions are present. – This is similar to #1 but different because it’s about increasing your awareness and ability to recognize emotions. Identifying and naming the emotions you or others are experiencing helps you take a powerful step toward knowing what to do with them.
  • 3. Channel your emotional energy and/or strategically “let off steam.” – The one thing about emotions is that if we don’t control them, they control us. It’s an either/or situation. We either take our emotions by the reigns or they will take us for a ride. Increasing your awareness helps you to build strategies on how you will handle certain emotional experiences in the future. By making a plan, you can take the appropriate actions at the appropriate time.
  • 4. Within a mentoring relationship, explore and digest some of these emotions. – Having a professional relationship where emotions can be explored is pivotal for professionals; whether this is in the form of a colleague, a mentor or an old manager – find someone you can trust to give you good feedback regarding how you want to or plan to address your emotions or others’ emotions.
  • 5. After all of the above, express emotions – professionally and relevantly. – Once you’ve taken the appropriate steps to acknowledge, understand, channel and digest the emotions that have emerged, address the situation at hand. If you have been fuming over a coworker, struggling with a report, or watching two of your team members destroy your team through disagreements – take appropriate action (as you would have identified in earlier steps). Confronting emotional environments directly demonstrates to your team that emotions shouldn’t be ignored (and can’t be ignored) – but should be professionally, appropriately and strategically managed.

Hopefully by using these 5 steps, you will start to set a solid example when it comes to emotions.