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Managing Emotions in the Workplace

Managing Emotions in the Workplace

Emotions are part of being human—proof that we are experiencing the complexities life has to offer. Likewise, emotions in the workplace are normal, especially where expectations run high and resources run low. At the same time, the workplace is a professional setting, and not all emotions or expressions of them are appropriate.

Whether you are an employee or a supervisor, it is important to understand how to manage emotions at work. Author Anne Kreamer and communications expert Jodi Glickman explain why an emotion-free workplace is unrealistic and how to handle work stress appropriately.

Skip the Superhuman Act

The demands of running a business or a department—personnel issues, budgets, expectations, deadlines—can often be overwhelming. As a result, emotions in the workplace should be expected. As a manager, there’s also added pressure to maintain a management style that keeps a lid on emotions.

“I think a lot of us feel like we have to put on some kind of armour when we come into the workforce,” says Kreamer, “but, really, no one likes to work for Mr. or Miss Perfect.” With regard to managers and emotions, she explains that:

  • Managers who are honest about their struggles earn extra employee loyalty and trust from their team.
  • When your team knows that you’re under pressure to accomplish something, they are better able to help and support you in the way you need them to.
  • Keeping your emotions bottled up only to explode at the 11th hour isn’t fair to your employees.

This does not mean you should fly off the handle at the drop of a hat or complain to your employees about upper management. It just means that it is ok to show some emotions in the workplace and express feelings of stress or frustration.

Emotions and Gender

In researching her book on the topic, Kreamer discovered that women cry nearly four times as often as men. “Women have six times the amount of prolactin (the hormone that controls tears) than men do and our tear ducts are significantly larger,” she says. While women may cry more easily, men are more likely than women to get aggressive and violent when they get angry.

Whether someone’s emotions are expressed through tears, a raised voice, or worse, their behaviour should not be ignored. As Kramer notes, these expressions are the workplace equivalent of a “check engine” sign. They point to the fact that someone is overworked, sick, angry, frustrated, etc. Rather than seeing tears or emotions as a sign of weakness, we should simply take them as a cue to pause and address the underlying issue.

Both Kreamer and Glickman see this as an area where great managers can really set themselves apart by approaching workplace emotions as something healthy for business. Kreamer believes that “profound social changes, in tandem with the new scientific insights into the ways each gender operates, will transform the future of interpersonal dynamics on the job.”

Investigate the Emotional Triggers

For Kreamer, managing emotions in the workplace starts well before the geyser erupts. Rather than “forced empathy,” she encourages supervisors to go deeper and look for what is triggering an employee’s emotional behaviour in the first place. This positions you to deal with issues at their root level, which also helps you prevent an outburst in the future.

Kreamer also notes that managers should look for the same emotional triggers in themselves that they do in employees. Having that level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence allows you to better understand when you are feeling overwhelmed, how you got there, and how to manage it.

Managing Employee Emotions in the Workplace

We all know things can get heated in the office at times. According to Glickman, the goal isn’t to pretend the emotions aren’t there, but to step in and help the employee gain composure. She recommends the following tips for dealing with an emotional employee:

  • If they look like they are going to lose it, suggest that they take a break or a walk to get some air and clear their head.
  • Allow them to get some distance from the situation to cool off and then ask to continue the discussion when things have calmed.
  • Look beyond accusations and focus on intentions—acknowledge good intentions or efforts and point to the solution.
  • Share concrete suggestions for improving the process going forward.

Glickman, who served as a manager on Wall Street, says the key to handling emotions in the workplace is to deal with them swiftly, but without making the other person feel attacked or threatened. “You should be clear about what is being objected to or criticised but, typically, it is the outcome, not the process”, she says.

Managing Your Own Emotions at Work

While emotions can help reveal problems that need solving, Glickman says that if you feel yourself getting overly emotional, it is still best to head for the door. Instead of crying or creating an awkward, uncomfortable scene, let others know you need to take a break or burn off steam. As Glickman explains, “I do not see the benefit in actually having that breakdown in front of others.”

More Questions About Emotions in the Workplace? We Can Help

Rarely do managers want to hire an automaton with no feelings, but they also want to avoid employee tantrums in the workplace. Perfection lies in the balance which is where we can help. Monster understands the challenges that come with recruiting and managing a workforce. Find the right candidates for your company by posting a job for free today.