Rising Above Negative Emotions At Work

Rising Above Negative Emotions At Work

Rising Above Negative Emotions At Work

Personal emotional outbursts might seem a relief as they are exhibited to someone who understands the individual deeply. But when these emotional outbursts are exposed in the open, say at work, they could have adverse effects on one’s reputation and hamper his or her productivity. Every individual has an own temperament. Both the employer as well as the employee should possess a hold on their emotional sides. In any other case, this could result in a variety of issues like de-motivation, negative reinforcement, etc. which, in turn, could affect employee turnover and reduce work efficiency.

After a lot of research and observation, the most common negative emotions found in a typical work atmosphere are:

  • Frustration
  • Tension
  • Anger
  • Aversion

Dealing with or learning to control the above common emotions involve a few simple steps as given below:

Frustration: This emotion is both inherent and spontaneous in us. The more one tries to stop it, the more you get frustrated. Any person gets frustrated because he or she feels trapped or sees no way out of a problem. In order to rise above this emotion, do the following:

  • Hold back and assess: This is the best line of attack. Put yourself on hold for a while and engage yourself by reviewing the problem and trying various alternative ways and means of solving it.
  • Discover something constructive and encouraging about the new circumstance: When an assignment has suddenly been assigned and there is very little time left for the deadline, it is best to derive something affirmative and helpful out of the situation rather than to panic and get irritated.
  • Bear in mind the consequences you had to face the previous time you felt aggravated: Frustration is not a single occasion feeling. It recurs depending on the individual. Hence, one should be able to learn from one’s past experiences and prevent them from recurring.

Tension: Tension, nervousness, fear, anxiety and worry are the root causes of frustration. At one end of the spectrum, you find mounting fluctuations in the job market, many employees are stressed due to the fear of losing their jobs. This has an indirect impact on the individual’s productivity through not only adverse mental and physical health effects but also factors like de-motivation and decrease in confidence levels. At the other end, the employer himself is stressed because of poor productivity from employees, delays in deadlines and lack of customer skills. Hence, in order to cope with tension and stress, do the following:

  • Isolate yourself from the related environment of worry and anxiety
  • Find a separate place where you can practice relaxation techniques such as breathing, meditation, etc.
  • Focus on bringing in returns to the organization rather than worrying about being laid off

Anger: The most destructive of all emotions is anger. There are several roots to anger but it pales in comparison with ego and jealousy. These emotions linger within one for much longer than others. Thus, it is very important to keep one’s temperament in control. Anger management involves:

  • Choosing the right medium to act in response to a situation
  • Identifying and cutting off anger at an early stage
  • Applying the concept of positive reinforcement by stirring stillness and composure within oneself

Aversion: Many a time, an employee or employer is forced to work with a person he or she has an aversion to. Yet, it is mandatory to maintain professionalism in an organization. At times like these:

  • It is important to be reverential towards the aptitude of that particular individual, letting aside one’s ego and self-dignity
  • It is also important to show assertiveness, when necessary

Emotions are different at different times. They could be momentary, discrete, longer-lasting, dispositional and transmittable. But they are unstoppable. Nonetheless, it is always possible to prevent these feelings by controlling one’s emotions. In the process of doing so, it is very important to always bear in mind the previous consequences occurred due to emotional outbursts and learn from them.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

View Presentation On Effective Stress Management and Healthy Living

  • Michael J. Spangle

    One of the greatest challenges for me is to remember that the circumstances that trigger our emotional responses are, more often then not, transitory in nature. My own experience with emotional outbursts has been when my feelings of self-entitlement are crossed. I have the perception that, somehow, my will has priority and, therefore, how dare someone block my progress in a particular direction. I have come to realize that these moments of frustration are actually occasions of warning that I am either going in the wrong direction or going there too fast (read unprepared).

    Tension I find is, more often than not, the result of believing that I must be able to do it all. It is the result of placing unreal expectations on myself and others. The downside to tension is its ability to rob me of the energy to respond appropriately when circumstances change, or even to think clearly enough to prepare for those changes.

    The first two emotions often lead to the third, anger. I want to lash out at those who frustrate me or bring tension into my life. I do not want to feel the pain that they cause. What I fail to realize is that this pain serves a good purpose. It warns me that something is out of kilter in my life. The self-examination that should result from this pain can lead to new growth and the pruning of that which is unfruitful.

    The last emotion is aversion. There are three thoughts that present themselves to me when I consider this emotion. The first is that, it is quite possible that the very thing I loathe in this person is the very quality that I hate most in myself. The presence of this person in my life may very well be God’s way of reminding me that I have work to do on myself. The second thought is that every person that I meet can make me happy. Some people do this by entering my life, others by leaving. The third thought is that this person I am so adverse to is an opportunity to demonstrate compassion. I did not say pity, for this often represents the worst kind of condescension. Compassion is a better response.

  • Our emotions provide us with “energy to move” in a certain direction. I do agree we need to deal with all these emotions and keep moving forward.
    The origing of the word “emotion” comes from French émotion, from Old French, from esmovoir, to excite, from Vulgar Latin *exmov re : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin mov re, to move.
    The e-motions contain a lot of energy – that energy must go somewhere.

  • Great article! Good points, all. At the risk of being somewhat repetitive…

    My coping tactics while working on or leading a team:
    1) Take a deep breath.
    2) Take another deep breath.
    3) If I must deal with ANOTHER’S negative feelings, I REMEMBER THIS: (My wife, a former school teacher, taught me this one) – Behind every tantrum or outburst is one of these valid emotions (frustration, tension, anger, offense, aversion, fear), often prompted by previous experiences. My reaction can either be to:
    a) Respond in kind, take offense, and argue, or…
    b) Attempt to diffuse the situation, with an empathetic comment like, “We’re all under a lot of pressure here. We’re all expected to do too much in too little time and with too few people and it really sucks (or your word of choice). In spite of that, let’s try to focus our energy on what’s at hand right now; OK?”
    Choice b is often very effective and keeps one’s own emotions manageable.

    a) REMEMBER, the objective is to keep moving forward, to deal with obstacles constructively.
    b) Preface the comment(s) with something like, “OK – that really frustrates me; I need to get this off my chest.”
    c) Choose words carefully so as to direct them at an action, not the person/people responsible. E.g., “When that happens, I feel… BUT, we have to deal with it and the only effective way to deal with it is to do so constructively.”
    d) IF THERE’S TIME NOW, propose an email or other simple, appropriate action to keep appropriate management/stakeholders apprised of an obstacle to project progress. OTHERWISE, make a note of it and set up a reminder to discuss possible actions later
    -OR- decide to shrug our collective shoulders and let it pass as something unavoidable.
    5) IF THE EMOTIONS ARE MINE -AND- THE TIME AND AUDIENCE ARE -not- APPROPRIATE, … well, all the things the article pointed out.

  • Srikanth

    I guess there is one Japanese management style wherein the people who have complaints abt their bosses, peers or subordinates, get into a meeting hall meant for that with the person and bare their thoughts and seek answers. This room permits only floor seating, permits ‘no escalation’, and permits ‘no ranks’. Eventually they share their thoughts openly and agree to mend fences; come up with proactive suggestions for improvement with positive outcome.

  • Catherine Powell

    This is a great conversation. I devote a significant amount of my time these days to coaching managers in how they can assist their employees when they are engaged in conflict situations in the workplace. For those managers who wish to take these skills further, they can become facilitators or mediators in their workplace. This type of learning and development program starts with assisting managers/ leaders to understand the strong influence of emotions in disagreements and disputes, including their own. By developing their self-awareness of what happens when conflict arises, managers and leaders can achieve greater self-awareness of their own responses and then acquire the skills to assist others in their teams in managing their disagreements. I agree that developing EI skills will go a long way to helping people manage the stresses of daily life at home and at work and reduce inappropriate emotional responses at work. Preventing, managing and resolving conflict at work is also a key leadership skill, in my mind becoming more and more important. Workplace investigations and litigation often seem to inflame disagreements/disputes and behaviour can worsen or go underground. Teaching EI skills through conflict resolution programs can assist managers and employees to appreciate why people get into disputes and how they can better manage themselves and the situation to reduce the consequences of conflict (stress, low morale, retention issues and often high financial costs) in the short and longer term. One way of looking at this issue and very keen to hear more on other approaches or views.

  • As Promised Srinath (sorry about the delay) here is my view on emotions. I don’t think that it is possible, not always at least, to control our emotions, it is with time possible however to transform them. I like to think of emotions as such e-motion … energy in motion and as we know from the fundamental laws of physics energy cannot be lost but can be converted. Controlling the emotions is an extremely difficult thing to achieve, one theory suggests that anger turned inwards on oneself becomes depression.

    Also I’m not keen on the idea that emotions are either negative or positive. Maybe the outcomes of what we do with the emotions is negative but the emotions themselves are best not to be judged. This is why many people enter therapy in my view because they are often looking to come to terms with their “negative” emotions which implies they are “bad” for having them. emotions stem from our feelings and thinking and we need to get better at accepting ourselves and our responses first before we maybe seek to change those feelings.

    I am happy to share more thoughts on this subject if anyone else is interested. In fact if many people are interested I don’t mind providing a free teleseminar on the subject where I can teach you the techniques I teach my executive coaching clients here in the UK.

    Warmest regards from the UK
    Mark Buchan
    executive coach