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How to Manage Emotions in the Workplace

how to manage emotions in the workplace

With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, lots of people across the UK are faced with the prospect of returning to the workplace. With everything that's gone on over the last year, the change in routine and the added threat of a global pandemic have really ramped up people's emotions to a state that can be hard to manage.

An average day at work can be stressful at the best of times, but with so much going on in the world, it's really important that employers and employees take the time to learn how to manage their emotions in the workplace. Today we're going to look at a few things you can do to help you stay calm, focused and in control of your emotions even on difficult days.

What emotions are we likely to feel at work?

Spending so much of our lives at work, we are going to feel a huge range of emotions in the workplace. When we have a particularly good day, secure a new client or have a break-through on a project, we might feel incredibly proud and pleased with the work we've done. Positive emotions are consistently linked to more creative work, better performance, positive customer service and employee retention - so it's definitely something employees should be encouraging!

On the flip side, if things don't go our way, we upset a client or do something wrong, it's likely that we'll feel upset, disappointed and frustrated. These negative emotions generally lead to negative outcomes, for example, poor performance and high absenteeism. Over time, unhappy feelings can really prevent us from working effectively and enjoying an average day at work, so it's important we know how to confront these feelings and create a more positive outcome. Today we're going to take a look at some simple strategies you can use to manage negative emotions in the workplace.


1. Clarifying the situation

A lot of the time, when we're faced with a stressful or emotionally charged situation, we act irrationally. It's okay, we're human beings, we're emotional creatures and when we're overcome with emotion it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. A great way to manage the emotions you're feeling at any given time is to take a step back and really clarify what's caused you to feel this way. Have you got the wrong end of the stick?

Is it a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication? Would a bit of clarification help you put things in perspective? This can often be the case, especially in the world of technology and emails. Some people come across as "blunt" or "rude" because they're really busy - that doesn't mean they have a personal vendetta against you. If in doubt, arrange a call or face-to-face meeting to get clarification on the situation before you send a blunt or rude response in return.


2. Ten minutes of self-care

There's a whole generation of people entering the workplace that are hugely affected by mental health problems like anxiety or depression. These are problems that occur when we're constantly comparing ourselves to others and putting pressure on ourselves to perform at 110% every single day. It can become completely overwhelming to the point that your brain feels like a tumble dryer! When you're completely overwhelmed and your thoughts are racing, there's no way that you can focus on the tasks at hand.

Taking 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of work to practice some breathing and relaxation techniques can reset your mind and allow you to attack the day with a more positive attitude. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly to help lower your heart rate. Meditating for a short period can help you become more aware of yourself and can also help you take control of the thoughts rushing through your mind. Don't take these self-care techniques for granted, they really can help you manage your emotions in the heat of the moment.


3. Five years, five minutes rule

One motto that you can use to help you put your current stresses into perspective is the 'five years, five minutes' rule, which is: If it won't matter in 5 years' time, don't spend longer than 5 minutes worrying about it.

It's true that we spend huge portions of our days stressing and worrying about things that won't even matter in 5 years time. In fact, we probably won't even remember what it was we were stressing about! Putting your daily troubles into perspective this way and compartmentalising the stress can help you focus on the issues that really matter.


4. Know what triggers you

If you are struggling with anxiety or dealing with your emotions at work, it can be really beneficial to know what triggers you. By recognising your triggers and talking to your managers or HR about these triggers, you can avoid them more often and you can be more prepared to deal with them when they occur. Some workplaces may even make allowances to your working structure or routine to limit the number of triggers that you are exposed to.

What do we mean by this? Well, some people have a phobia of speaking on the phone, to a point that they lose sleep at night if they have an important phone call with a client coming up. The pressure of talking in front of people and not knowing what to say can make the idea of a phone call very daunting!

Now for most of us, making a phone call might be a normal part of everyday life that triggers no emotional response whatsoever, but if this is something that really triggers an employee, then it might be useful for the employer to make allowances for this. Perhaps another employee can take charge of the phone calls, or a quiet room could be provided to lessen the feelings of pressure.

Dealing with people's triggers on an individual basis can help to improve the overall emotional state of the workforce. A happier workforce is more productive and more likely to stick around, so take people seriously if they want to discuss their triggers with you.


5. Apologise if you have an emotional outburst

Now it might seem silly to apologise for something that you can't control, but sometimes we become very unprofessional when we let our emotions get the better of us. If you've been feeling angry, upset or frustrated at work, this can result in an emotional outburst.

If you've said something hurtful (or potentially detrimental to your job) the best thing you can do is apologise right away. Saying something like 'I'm really sorry, my emotions got the better of me but I didn't mean what I said" can be enough damage control to diffuse the situation before it becomes more serious. Try not to beat yourself up about it though. You're not the first person to have an emotional outburst at work, and you certainly won't be the last!

So there you have it, a bit of advice from the HRS team to help you manage your emotions in the workplace. Communication is so vital to help you maintain a happy and healthy relationship with your employer and your colleagues!

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