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How to Handle Your Emotions at Work

9 tips for managing your emotions and maintaining professionalism


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Professionalism is the grease that keeps businesses turning. But with the increasing demands placed on workers, it can be easy to forget that people are, well, only human.

So just how common are emotional outbursts during office hours? Forty-five percent of the workers who responded to a recent Accountemps survey said they’ve cried at work, and 52 percent have lost their temper at some point. Perhaps surprisingly, most of those angry displays (65 percent) were directed at coworkers rather than management (37 percent).

How you control your emotions — or not — in the workplace affects the way other professionals perceive you. Thirty-four percent of the surveyed workers said crying at work is never OK because it makes a person come across as weak or immature.

Professionals should know how to conduct themselves in less-than-ideal situations, both for a more comfortable office environment and to avoid harming their career prospects. Here are some tips for managing your emotions.

1. REFLECT BEFORE REACTING

Emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy, fear and sadness are perfectly natural and should never be fully suppressed. Yet in an office setting, be slow to show these feelings. Count to 10 before speaking. Take deep cleansing breaths. If necessary, remove yourself from the situation to cool down. Consider the consequences of each action.

2. ASSUME GOOD INTENTIONS

Some conflicts arise when people assign the worst possible motives for the actions of others. You may think a question is rude or overly personal, but the person asking it may genuinely just want to get to know you better. Give colleagues the benefit of the doubt in your interactions with them.

3. WRITE BUT DON’T SEND

Perhaps a colleague made a snide comment about you. Or maybe your boss criticized your work. These are upsetting situations. Rather than lashing out, though, compose an email to the other person involved. Writing things down can be cathartic. Just don’t hit send. To make sure you don’t accidentally send it, leave the “To:” field blank.
4. MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES

Strong connections with coworkers is one of the six keys to workplace happiness for finance specialists. But oversharing actually weakens the bonds of collegiality and creates tension. Where you draw the lines is up to your good judgment. Some people are uncomfortable following colleagues on social media, while others have no such qualms. One definite no-no for most workers is office romance, especially between a supervisor and subordinate.

5. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Know where to devote your energies. Some things, like leaving the office coffee pot empty without brewing more is nothing to get huffy about. Save time and efforts for things that matter in the long run, such as finishing that financial report or improving your in-house networking.

6. KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS

Don’t put yourself in situations that you know will drive you crazy. Can’t stand a colleague’s chewing noises? Don’t eat next to them. Political discussions put you in a foul mood? Unfollow — but don’t unfriend — coworkers who post endless memes for or against the current president. When you don’t see or hear things that upset you, your emotions will be on a more even keel.

7. LEAVE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AT HOME

Sometimes, the stressors are not from work. When you go from home to the office, stop dwelling on personal issues — fight with a spouse, disagreement with the kids, worries over money — from the moment you sit down at your desk until the time you leave work. In other words, try to compartmentalize your private and professional worlds.

8. FIND A SAFE PLACE

Sometimes you just need to vent your emotions during work hours. If so, remove yourself from the upsetting situation and go somewhere private to cry. A single-stall bathroom is a good option. Go back to your desk when you’re in better control of your feelings.

9. LEAD BY EXAMPLE

This tip is for managers: You set the tone for your department and shape the workplace culture. If you tend to rant, retaliate, shift the blame or fly off the handle, your team will think it’s acceptable to do the same. Stay calm under stressful situations and treat everyone with respect.

Being an employee or manager doesn’t mean you can’t have emotions. But knowing when and how to express them — those are the keys to a productive workplace and career success.


5 ETIQUETTE TIPS FOR PROFESSIONAL AFTER-HOURS EVENTS


Karen Policastro is the senior regional vice president for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Karen oversees operations for the Accountemps, OfficeTeam, Robert Half Management Resources, Robert Half Healthcare Practice and Salaried Professional Services divisions throughout Colorado. Karen and her teams are dedicated to placing professionals in rewarding jobs while helping local businesses grow and be successful. Learn more by visiting www.roberthalf.com or contact Karen and karen.policastro@roberthalf.com.

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