Virtually everybody has been in a situation where their emotions took over while they were on the job. In some cases, these moments are entirely understandable. They can even be productive. For example, if a laid back supervisor becomes uncharacteristically angry at a team that is slacking off, their anger can serve to get the team back in line. The problem comes when emotions cause you to become less productive and to lose face with your colleagues and superiors.
The Trouble With Being Too Emotional at Work
Showing emotions around friends and family is one thing. Unfortunately, when you are at work, it is best to stay in control of your feelings and how you express them. Behaviors such as isolating yourself, yelling, or even crying are cringeworthy when done at work, and can have the following consequences:
- Developing a reputation among coworkers as being manipulative or flaky
- Causing supervisors to question your ability to handle your responsibilities
- Earning a reputation with human resources as a cause for concern
- Loss of customers or increase in customer complaints
- Getting passed over for leadership opportunities or promotions
- Feeling continually stressed and anxious
- Missing deadlines and mistakes because you are caught up in your emotions
Clearly, if you aren’t able to control your emotions trouble is going to come. Think of it this way. If your boss is selecting team members to work on an important project, they aren’t going to choose someone they think will crack under pressure. They also won’t pick a worker that doesn’t have a good reputation among their coworkers. Now, imagine what would happen if your employer is forced to make cuts. Your tendencies to be overly emotional could put you on the chopping block.
Getting Your Emotions in Check
Here’s some good news. If you recognize that you are too emotional in the workplace, you have already taken an important step. To continue this forward progress, keep reading. You will learn about the negative emotions that commonly surface during the work day, how to recognize the things that trigger your losing control, and some strategies to help you remain cool headed. Before long, you will have the emotional control you need to be productive and respected.
About Positive Emotions at Work
For the sake of this piece, we are only going to focus on negative emotions. This is because these tend to be the emotions to which others react negatively. Positive emotions usually only cause trouble if people feel as if you are phony or that you are ignoring problems.
Negative Emotions You Might Encounter at Work
Let’s take a look at some of the most common negative emotions you might deal with while you are on the job and a few scenarios that might cause those emotions to crop up.
- Anxiety And Worry – If you have been given more work than you can handle, or you are expected to perform tasks that you have not been properly trained to do, it is common to feel anxious and worried.
- Restlessness And Dissatisfaction – Sometimes, you are just in the unfortunate position of working in a job that just isn’t a good fit. Because of this, you might struggle with feelings of dissatisfaction and restlessness.
- Frustration – Frustration often crops up when you are forced to work with coworkers who aren’t doing their fair share of the work. You might also feel frustrated if your supervisor is unresponsive to your concerns.
- Anger – If you’ve ever been treated unfairly, blamed for a mistake that wasn’t yours, or gaslighted by someone that you work with, anger is a natural response.
These are by no means the only scenarios that might drive these emotions, but it is good to understand potential causes for these unproductive emotions.
Dealing With Negative Emotions Productively
Anxiety And Worry
Recognizing The Signs: The best way to begin dealing with your emotions is to start recognizing the signs that you are feeling these emotions. When you are feeling anxious, you might start to have an unexplainable feeling of dread, along with irritability and an even physical symptoms such as nausea or headaches. If you are recognizing any feelings of anxiety stop and begin a self-analysis.
Coping Strategies: Anxiety, especially when it’s severe can be awful. It’s difficult to function, let alone get much work done when you are feeling this way. Here are some coping strategies that you can use to get through an especially difficult moment of anxiety:
- Square Breathing: This is a technique where you breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds. The next step is to hold that breath for another count of four. Finally, you exhale slowly for another four seconds. This technique can help you center yourself and reduce some of the physical symptoms that can be caused by anxiety related hyperventilation.
- Watch Caffeine Consumption: For some people, caffeine can aggravate anxiety. Consider reducing or eliminating caffeine and see what happens.
- Take a Brief Walk Outside: A short walk, especially if it is sunny outside can help calm you to the point that you can get back to work.
Further Work You Can Do: Try to identify what is triggering your anxiety. Is it a particular project? Are you put off by a particular supervisor or coworker? Do you only struggle with anxiety at work? Put pen to paper and list the who, what, when, and where questions about your anxiety troubles. You might find a common thread. If you find that you are feeling anxious in situations that don’t seem to merit that emotion, you might consider speaking with a doctor or therapist. You could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Restlessness And Dissatisfaction
Recognizing the signs: You know you should be working, but as soon as you start on a task, you get distracted. You check your phone more than you should, you probably spend too much time on the net, and you just cannot find any reason to be excited about your work.
Coping Strategies: When one is dissatisfied with their lives in can corrupt productivity. This happens because when you are unsatisfied, you can become restless, and feel that you are not where you need to be in your life. You can deal with dissatisfaction by taking the time to find out what is making you so unsatisfied. Is it your career itself, or is it something that you need to change about yourself?
Unfortunately, most people cannot only quit their jobs or make sweeping life changes, at least not in the short term. However, you can try a few of the following techniques to keep yourself on track and productive until you take your next steps.
- Try to find something positive that you can focus on during work hours even if you aren’t in love with your job
- Use the Pomodoro method to keep yourself on task as much as possible
- Give yourself small rewards for accomplishing tasks and making it through the day productively
- Post up family photos, motivational sayings, and other items that will make your workspace a bit cheerier.
Further work you can do: Here are some potential long-term solutions for restlessness and dissatisfaction.
- Take a class or do something else that could lead to a career path that is better suited to you
- Speak to a career coach or counselor who can help you find your way
- Do you have skills and talents your current employer could use? Maybe you would be happy in another department.
- Take action to create happiness in other areas of your life. Some people find their passion in the work that they do. Others find it outside of work and choose to make work simply a way of earning an income.
Recognizing the signs: Frustration is almost a physical sensation. You sigh loudly, tap your fingers, run your hands through your hair, clear your throat, and even tend to treat objects much more roughly than you normally do (slamming doors, snatching items up, etc.).
Coping Strategies: If you can, take a moment and stop what you are doing. Leave the area, and do something to relax. Perhaps drink a cup of water or sit down and take a break somewhere. Then find out what is frustrating you. Perhaps it is a small mistake that you keep making and you don’t know why. Maybe it’s an individual who is driving you up the wall.
Whatever the case may be, you know that you cannot spend your workdays sighing in frustration or grumbling angrily. This does nothing for your reputation among your coworkers, and it’s difficult to get real work done when you are feeling frustrated. Try these coping strategies instead:
- If a coworker is frustrating you, take a deep breath and take a compassionate approach. Are they struggling with a task that you can help with? Do they need a bit of space? Maybe they need time management help?
- Hit the break room for a quick drink of water
- Be aware of your words and tone of voice
- If it’s a small thing, speak up
- Do something else and then circle back to the frustrating task if possible
Further work you can do: This can be a tough emotion to deal with. Be honest with yourself. If there is a single frustrating person or situation that is plaguing you, then the best approach is to work on that person or situation. You can do this by trying some of the following techniques:
- Speak with the individual who is frustrating you calmly and politely to find resolution
- Ask for the information and materials that you need to get your work done
- If possible find ways to avoid working with or around a frustrating person
- Delegate tasks that are frustrating or offer to trade those tasks with another co-worker
However, if you find yourself getting frustrated and irritable just as a matter of course, you might want to work on increasing your frustration tolerance. Check out these tips:
- Get enough rest and make sure that you eat and drink enough
- Speak with a counselor if frustration becomes too much of an issue
- Find a go-to activity that you can turn to briefly to let off some steam
- Try adding meditating or yoga to your workout routine
- Work on verbalizing your frustrations in a constructive manner
Recognizing the signs: When anger comes on, you might clench your fists, feel extremely hot, and have a desire to take an extreme action such as yelling at someone or cursing. On the other hand, anger can also make you shut down. You might feel nothing at all. You might also begin acting out in passive aggressive ways. This could mean doing subpar work, refusing to communicate with others, or just finding subtle ways to undermine the people who you feel have angered you.
Coping Strategies: Anger is extremely counter productive. If you routinely let your temper fly off the handle, there can be serious issues with your ability to hold a job, let alone be productive. If you feel anger coming on, see if the following tips will work:
- Try the square breathing technique that was mentioned above
- Acknowledge your anger calmly and ask for space
- Drink water to take your focus off of your extreme emotion
- Take a walk
- Write down what has made you angry and why it has made you angry
Further work you can do: Just like frustration, anger tends to fall into two categories. The first is justifiable outrage. If you have been lied to, harassed, or treated unfairly at work, it makes sense that you are angry. Here are some actions that might bring you some satisfaction:
- Speak with Human Resources or a supervisor
- Document the incidents that are making you angry
- If possible approach the offending person and ask them to stop (do this first)
If you are beginning to realize that your anger is due to internal factors, you can take steps to help yourself.
- Find a physical outlet such as running or lifting weights
- Start a journal about your days to see if you have a particular anger pattern
- Set up an appointment with an anger management professional
Hopefully, these instructions will help you to manage your negative emotions better while you are on the job. If can remain on an even keel emotionally, your coworkers will have more respect for you, your bosses will view you as a competent professional, and you will get more work done. If you still find that you struggle with controlling your emotions, see if your employer offers an eap program where you can get free counseling.