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Emotions at Work: Keeping Them in Check

Emotions at Work: Keeping Them in Check

Emotional Intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman, says that, to succeed in today’s workplace, the ability to manage your emotions is key. In his book Working With Emotional Intelligence, Goleman emphasizes the importance of understanding how our emotions affect our actions on the job as well as how they influence the reactions of others.

As a career coach, I’ve helped many clients navigate the often-choppy emotional waters of the workplace, so I’m well aware that getting a grip on emotions at work can be a challenge. Your new boss may not be as open to suggestions as a previous manager, so you’re not feeling heard… or you’re suddenly expected to work weekends. Maybe a co-worker is not pulling his or her weight – which reflects on your performance…or there’s job insecurity due to a company merger. We’ve all been in those situations that test our patience, push our buttons and bring us to the brink of revealing our true emotions at work – whether it’s frustration, worry, or outright anger.

Wearing your emotions on your sleeve at work can have a detrimental effect on relationships – not to mention the security of your job. The good news is that there are steps that you can take to become more aware of your feelings and gain control over the emotions you share with co-workers. Here are five that I highly recommend:

Name It.

Identify negative feelings and the likely causes to bring them out of the shadows and get a better handle on them. If you’re frustrated about a recent exchange with a co-worker or boss, try writing down the emotions you’ve experienced. Putting pen to paper may be “old school”, but it can be a constructive way to let off steam and clear the way for possible insights and solutions to the situation.

Learn New Strategies.

Books such as Goleman’s Working With Emotional Intelligence or Kerry Patterson’s books, Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations, are excellent resources for educating yourself and becoming more aware of how your emotions can help or hurt you in the workplace. Also take note of how those around you at work handle conflict/ difficult encounters while keeping emotions at bay.

Find A Sounding Board.

Sharing work-related challenges with your significant other, family members, supportive friends, or a coach can go a long way in diffusing emotions and help put things in perspective. If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that may be a path to consider, or you may want to seek other types of professional coaching/ counseling.

Practice Self-Care.

If you’ve been staying up late, eating on the go, sitting at a desk all day-every day with little to no exercise, your emotional fortitude could be hanging by a thread. The way you handle a challenging work scenario can vary greatly depending on how well you’re taking care of yourself. Making sure you get the rest and nourishment you need, both physical and spiritual, can go a long way to help you maintain your emotional equilibrium on the job.

Cultivate Other Interests.

Having a hobby, side-hustle, or sport outside of your regular job can bolster your emotional resilience as well. I’ve seen it time and again…when we’ve filled our own wells with interesting, fulfilling things outside of the workplace, there’s a sense of wellbeing that can spill back over into our jobs. I realize this can be a tall order, especially when juggling work with family responsibilities, however if you can carve out time for activities that fill your heart and soul – whether knitting, Toastmasters, tap dancing (my new favorite pastime,) baking, etc. – it can make a big difference in your emotional equilibrium.

Effectively managing your emotions will serve you well throughout your life, so I encourage you to put the above tips to work for yourself. A strong EQ can be one of the most important ingredients in your recipe for career success!

This article previously appeared on LinkedIn.


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to: Medium Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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