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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp


We don’t often attribute our success to how we feel. In fact, we very rarely acknowledge our emotions at work at all. But we’re not computers. And whether we like it or not, we experience a range of emotions while working. 

Until recently, it was common practice to suppress emotions in the workplace. There seemed to be an unspoken rule that one should check their feelings at the door and carry themselves in a professional manner without the hindrance of unnecessary emotions. It’s not as simple as that though. A recent study found that people experience at least one emotion 90% of the time. That’s a lot of emotions!

With emotions being experienced so frequently throughout the day, it is implausible to act as if they don’t exist.

On the contrary, to be successful in our professional lives we need to acknowledge our emotions and learn to manage them properly. So be happy, sad, frustrated or even angry at work, but learn to do so in a productive way.

Why are emotions at work important?

To disregard the way people feel is a fundamentally flawed concept unless you are working with robots. It is also wrong to assume that all emotions are bad or will adversely affect your working environment. 

In fact, people experienced positive emotions 2.5 times more often than negative emotions, with the most frequent emotion being joy. That’s a lot of positive emotions that have the potential to be turned into a positive force.

Developing empathetic workplaces is crucial to organizational success, starting with making room for emotions. Here are five reasons why emotions at work are essential, even if you remain skeptical:

  1. A company’s emotional response to an event is a powerful source of data and intelligence about the system’s performance. Leaders can better shape their responses and actions by asking people how they feel about something and identifying dissonance or disruption in the system.
  2. We must be able to express emotions to succeed in the future. Unlike robots, humans are distinct from machines by their emotions. We can do things that robots cannot – such as make intuitive/non-linear connections and innovate through honoring and leveraging our emotions in the workplace. People must express their emotions in the workplace to remain relevant.
  3. Creativity is driven mainly by emotional expression. The workplace is no different from art, music, or writing…so why shouldn’t it be the same?
  4. Transformative power lies within emotions. Comparing the heart’s feelings with any amount of cognitive data is impossible. Think about a time you remember being satisfied by someone or something in your life. What was your feeling? Was it the facts or data surrounding the situation that you remembered, or simply your feelings about it?

What are emotions, and how can they affect the way you work

Our emotions are reactions to various stimuli, either internal or external. These reactions are subsequently used to guide our thoughts and behaviors. 

Emotions play a huge role in our daily lives, including while we work. We make decisions based on how we feel. We choose to do things based on how they might make us feel.

While there is very little research into the number of emotions we can experience in any one day, there is a consensus that our emotions can fall into two categories: positive or negative. 

It’s important to heed caution and not automatically associate positive emotions with positive outcomes or negative emotions with adverse effects. It is common for people to experience both positive and negative emotions simultaneously. Although, positive emotions are more prevalent than negative emotions. 

Negative and positive emotions

In general, positive emotions are the emotions that make us feel happy, like joy, gratitude, or hope. In contrast, negative emotions are emotions that can make you feel sad, like anger, frustration, or fear. Negative emotions can reduce your confidence, self-esteem, and general life satisfaction. Again, I urge you not to consider emotions as simply black and white. Some emotions could evolve into negative emotions even if they did not start that way.

Factors triggering positive emotions at work

Different factors trigger positive emotions at work. The biggest trigger, however, is the behavior of other people. The positive attitude of others can significantly contribute to your own positive attitude at work. 

Positive emotions can boost positive energy, make you more efficient and focused, and improve your physical and mental health.

Factors triggering negative emotions at work

Different kinds of stress or burdens can affect your focus, behavior, and emotions in the workplace. These stresses may be financial stress, health stress, or relationship stress. These can all impact your attitude and thus change the attitude of others towards you.

Negative behavior from your colleagues can stress you out and negatively impact your emotions at work. Negative emotions can affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Examples of how emotions can influence the way you work

Emotions influence your communication

Happiness, gratitude, and other positive emotions can boost cooperation and teamwork. Alternatively, negative emotions can cause conflict and miscommunication.

The workplace is full of emotions, but they can also cause conflict. Emotions can even spark organizational change. Stressed or overworked employees may be more likely to speak up or take action. Knowing how your emotions affect your ability to communicate with others is important.

Emotions influence decision-making

Emotions in the workplace and moods can significantly influence decision-making. Employees who feel good take more risks and are more innovative. People tend to play it safe and follow established procedures when feeling negative.

Managers can create a positive work culture at a workplace with emotional intelligence. Encourage employees to express their feelings and promote emotional awareness to create a positive emotional culture. Managers can use emotional intelligence to identify different emotions at work. When employees are stressed or overwhelmed and support them from making bad decisions.

Workplace emotions: Are they good or bad?

The key to success at work is emotional intelligence. Successful professionals can understand and regulate their emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

However, it has been argued that certain enforced emotions at work may cause harm. Burnout can be caused by emotional labor – the effort required to control emotions to meet job demands

Because of this, employers need to create an emotionally healthy and supportive environment.

Workplace Emotions vs. Moods: How Can You Tell the Difference?

In the workplace, it’s important to distinguish between emotions and moods, as they can impact productivity and morale.

Moods are more long-term, general states of mind, unlike emotions, which are short-lived, intense feelings triggered by specific events.

A person’s mood can influence their facial expressions and body language. A frown and tense body characterize a bad mood. While a positive mood is associated with smiles and relaxed bodies.

When it comes to emotions, however, they can be triggered by something as minor as a colleague saying something rude. By viewing emotions this way, we can see them as healthy fluctuations that we can train ourselves to manage. The causes of mood, however, can be rooted more deeply.

We should be aware of our own emotions and moods, as well as those of our colleagues. A person experiencing a bad mood may benefit from some space or support.

How to manage your emotions at work

Identify

Feelings can bubble up at any time. Don’t panic. Breathe deeply and acknowledge the emotion for what it is. Be patient, and don’t react right away. Instead, try to put a name to what you’re feeling. Determine when you first noticed the feeling and what triggered it. Be kind to yourself no matter how you feel.

Understand why

After you’ve named your emotions, consider why they happened. Investigate the origins of your emotions. By asking questions like: What made you upset? What made you feel that way? Where do your emotions come from? Are they internal or external? 

Consider when you have felt this emotion in the past and how you responded. In what ways did things go well? What didn’t work? What would it be if you could do anything differently in this situation?

Take charge

After you’ve calmed down and reflected, you’re ready to manage the situation. You need to determine how you will respond, if at all. When responding to emotionsthere are no hard and fast rules, but here are a few things you should consider:

Are you still concerned about the situation? Have you overreacted? Have you resolved any issues before moving forward? How will you address the problem? Who else might be involved? Are there any lessons you can apply to future situations like this one?

Tips for managing the emotions of others

Learn how you can deal with your employees’ emotions in the workplace and build a stronger culture by following these suggestions:

Leave room for mistakes

It is a simple fact that no one is perfect. Mistakes will inevitably be made, and while they shouldn’t simply be accepted, people shouldn’t necessarily be scolded. Employees may feel humiliated and hostile when they are reprimanded or punished.

A calm correction or apology can go a long way in building trust. Transparency, open communication, and authenticity can reduce negative emotions among your employees. However, if mistakes continue accumulating, you should schedule time for your employees to create a performance improvement plan. Through this plan, both parties will be on the same page and set clear expectations.

Create a trustworthy culture

One way to demonstrate vulnerability is by sharing uncomfortable emotions. We can’t be vulnerable if we don’t trust the people we share our stories with. In your organization, everyone should feel comfortable expressing their emotions.

To encourage employees to share their feelings, you must also be willing to lead by example. Observing a culture of honesty and compassion will enable employees to understand and adapt to others’ emotions.

Emotions have a role to play at work

A healthy workplace should create a safe culture where employees feel safe to share their emotions at work. We are not robots, and with the rate at which we experience emotions throughout the day, it is important to include and acknowledge emotions in the workplace. There is also substantial benefit from harnessing positive emotions and understanding and learning from negative emotions.

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