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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp


Have you ever experienced rage in the workplace? Or maybe overwhelming anxiety? It’s natural to feel emotions in all facets of our lives. And the workplace is no different. After all, our feelings are what make us human. Experiencing negative emotions in the workplace can be concerning, especially when they become more intense and frequent. Learning how to control your emotions or emotional responses is a critical professional skill to develop.  

Understanding how to control your emotions and recognize what causes them

Our ideas and experiences frequently influence our emotions. Our brains produce them to provide meaning to physical sensations based on prior knowledge. That’s why one situation can cause completely different emotions in two people. For example, your coworker may have had a past negative experience while presenting in front of an audience. This can make them feel nervous when giving presentations. You, on the other hand, may have always given great presentations. When you’re in the same situation, you probably feel incredibly excited to present again. Our emotional response varies depending on previously stored information based on our unique experiences.

Additionally, our brains often misinterpret our emotions. You might believe you are angry, but you may just be irritated. Or you could even be both.

The biggest problem arises when you can’t correctly identify your emotions. You can’t manage your responses if you don’t understand how you’re feeling. Learning how to control your emotions in the workplace can only happen once you correctly identify the emotions you are dealing with. The following strategies can assist you with that:

Become more emotionally literate

Words have power. Take time to think of a name for your powerful emotion. Label it. Once you’ve found it, don’t stop there; attempt to think of two additional words to express your feelings. You can be taken aback by the range of your feelings or by the fact that you’ve discovered a more profound emotion buried underneath the more surface-level one.

Think about how strong the emotion is

Even when our sentiments are far less intense, we often use simple words like “mad” or “stressed” to describe how we feel. By doing so, you invite equally severe reactions.

Pause for a moment before reacting. Consider the actual intensity of your emotions. It can help you understand if your extreme reactions are warranted.

You could even take it a step further and rate your emotions on a scale of 1-10 to help you recognize them appropriately.

Put it in writing

Writing about emotionally charged events can significantly improve your physical and mental health. It helps you approach your feelings differently and better comprehend them and their effects. When you express your emotions in writing, over time, you start to understand the meaning or lack thereof of your emotions.

Recognizing your emotional triggers in the workplace

When reflecting upon your emotions, you may notice a pattern in your emotional responses or see how specific situations or times of the day affect how you feel. While some emotions may occur without reason, many result from varying triggers, either external or internal. It’s important to trace these triggers back to their root causes. Maybe failure caused you a significant loss in the past, so experiencing (or the thought of) it now results in intense infuriation. Whatever your respective triggers may be, identifying them can help you control your emotions in the workplace.

How to identify your emotions before they occur

Once you’ve begun internally reflecting on yourself and penning your emotions, you will become more emotionally aware of yourself. You now know your triggers and understand when and why you react the way you do. The next time you’re in a situation that can cause you to react without thinking, direct your attention to your feelings as they develop. Then, call the emotion by its name in your head so you recognize it. Finally, question its intensity, accept its existence, and wait for it to pass without reacting quickly. This way, you can identify your emotions before they fully surface, giving you an edge in controlling them in the workplace.

Managing emotions in the workplace

After successfully identifying your emotions and their origins, you can begin managing them. Here are some strategies to help control your emotions in the workplace:

Savoring

Inhibiting negative emotions through positive ones can help counter them. Savoring means looking for the good in a bad situation and your surroundings. Focus on emphasizing positive feelings and not being overwhelmed by negative ones. One way to practice this is by being grateful for the things that did go right and learning from those that didn’t. For example, if your future project fails, don’t sulk over failing. Instead, celebrate how your team came together as one and tried their best, despite the result. By creating such positive emotional energy, you uplift everyone’s mood.

Similarly, avoid being pessimistic. Focusing on your employee’s flaws can cause negative emotions to linger. Avoid diminishing and devaluing their contribution to your organization the next time they make a mistake.

Mindfulness

In the corporate world, failing and winning are constants. We can be hard on ourselves when we don’t meet the goals we set out to achieve. This can significantly contribute to your increasing negative emotions.

Mindfulness is the practice of quietly observing and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations while maintaining awareness of the present moment.

To practice mindfulness:

  • Take a few minutes to process and identify the negative emotions you’re undergoing when they come your way.
  • Let them flow as they are without passing any judgments.
  • Accept that all feelings are transitory. They emerge, remain for a time, and then leave. Your only responsibility is to let them exist and watch patiently as they repeatedly change until they dissipate.
  • Once entirely calm, examine your feelings in detail to determine what causes them and makes you uncomfortable.

Specific cognitive patterns could be the culprit. You might be feeling anxious because you were excessively worried about something at work or someone at home. Whatever the reason, you are in a much better position to manage it in the future.

Praying

We all experience dread, despair, and humiliation, which can be difficult to face in a work environment. Praying can help you cope with unfavorable emotional states by reappraising unpleasant situations and presenting them as an aspect of a cosmic battle. The difficulties of life that bring out negative emotions begin to seem temporal when you recognize them as part of God’s divine plan, which you will eventually get through.

So, the next time you experience such emotions, take a minute to ask God for strength and ease the journey for you, putting your complete faith in Him.

Learning how to control your emotions in the workplace, final thoughts

Initially, learning how to control your emotions may seem like an overwhelming task. You’ve likely lived your whole life reacting without thinking about your emotions in the heat of the moment. Of course, getting used to this change in thinking will take time. But all it requires is consistency and some conscious effort to reach a place where emotional control starts coming to you naturally. Remember, your emotions don’t control you, but you control them! So, don’t let your emotions keep you from reaching your utmost potential, and don’t give up if you fail initially.

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