Managing Emotions in the Workplace

Expressing emotion is a big part of what makes us human, so it’s natural that emotions (both positive and negative) are present in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, manage and express your feelings in a positive way, as well as understand and react to the emotions of others.

Studies have shown that workers with high emotional intelligence are more productive and more satisfied with their jobs. These people tend to be:

  • Self-aware – They understand their emotions and don’t let feelings take control. They’re also more likely to identify their own weaknesses and work to improve them.
  • Self-regulated – They control their emotions and are not impulsive. They tend to think things through before reacting.
  • Motivated – They are goal-oriented and able to work toward long-term success. They tend to be highly productive and not sidetracked by challenges or failure.
  • Empathic – They are good listeners and recognize others’ feelings, even in difficult situations. They tend to avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly.
  • Social – They tend to be excellent communicators and team players, and are good at building and maintaining positive relationships.

The great news is that you can develop these skills even if they don’t seem to come naturally. The following are five ways to immediately boost your emotional intelligence.

  1. Avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors. Their actions (or reactions) usually have more to do with them than with you. Widening your perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.  
  2. Learn to manage stress. People who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and have activities outside of their work life tend to manage emotions better at work. If you find stress is negatively impacting your personal and work life, seek counseling. Your human resources office can usually suggest options.
  3. Practice how to express difficult emotions.  One technique is the X-Y-Z rule: “I feel X when you do Y in situation Z.” An example would be: “I felt unappreciated and disappointed when you didn’t offer me the promotion although I am the top salesperson on the team.” Avoid using accusatory sentences that begin with “you,” such as “you are,” “you should,” or “you need to.”
  4. Stay proactive, not reactive. It’s important not to react immediately to a difficult co-worker or supervisor. Sometimes this means counting to 10 or asking to meet at another time so you have space to form an appropriate response. It also helps to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand their negative emotions.
  5. Recognize the lessons in life’s challenges. How you choose to think and feel about the failures and disappointments in your life can make all the difference. With every challenging situation, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?”, “How can I learn from this experience?”, and “What’s most important now?”.

Take a quiz to find out your level of emotional intelligence and access other resources on the topic.