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Dealing with emotions in the office is tricky. You don’t want to be branded as the person who freaks out or cries at the drop of the hat, or who uses emotions to manipulate people.Fear of being stigmatised as an emotional basket case prompts many professionals to practice what a recent Wall Street Journal article calls, “emotional suppression.”
But according to a study cited in the story, pretending to be a robot and bottling your emotions can “cloud thinking, promote job unhappiness and negatively impact work performance.”
So where’s the middle ground? How do you express your feelings without being labelled hyper-emotional? Here are some tips from experts about how to handle your emotions at work:
Stay in the moment when you’re anxious. This is the most important thing you can do when you’re overcome with a rush of anxiety, according to Katherine Walker, founder of Lifetime behavioural Health. “Anxiety is the fear of what might or might not happen at some point in the future,” Walker says.
Rather than worrying about uncertainty, “focus on the task at hand, not allowing your mind to drift off into the future, thinking what the boss might do or what your co-worker might do,” Walker says.
Easier said than done, right? Try deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (relaxing one muscle at a time starting from your toes to your head) to encourage mindfulness, Walker says.
Gain perspective after experiencing failure or disappointment.Getting caught up in these emotions often leads to self-deprecation. But most of the time, failure feels bigger than it really is.
“Remember that failure is a part of life—that’s how we learn,” Walker says.
Joyce Marter, founder of Urban Balance, agrees with Walker and says it’s important to view failure as temporary, and an opportunity for growth. When you’ve let someone down, show remorse and initiate damage control. But after that, remember to cut yourself some slack.
Marter speaks from personal experience and says feelings of disappointment are temporary and can help you grow. “For example, I am grateful to a boss that wouldn’t promote me at a previous job because that motivated me to leave and co-found Urban Balance, something I may not have done otherwise,” she says.
Seek release when you’re frustrated or angry. The best thing you can do is excuse yourself before you say or do anything rash out of anger. Taking a moment to walk around the building or step into the restroom can help you regain clarity and stay grounded.
But you can’t keep those feelings inside for long. “They need to be released in order to be resolved—whether that is directly to the source through communication or indirectly through meditation, art, exercise, dance,” Marter says.
When you’re overwhelmed with negative emotion, never hesitate to excuse yourself to cry. Taking a day off now to release strong, negative emotions is a small price to pay for better performance and happiness later.
Use envy or jealousy to fuel motivation. Walker says these can be motivating emotions if they push you to take action to improve your own performance. “If a co-worker has something you want, figure out how to productively get to the same place by doing some self-examination,” she says.
First, ask yourself: Why do you really want it? Then, it’s up to you to decide if achieving this goal is worth your time and resources.
Remember to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can. “Jealously may tip you off as to what you really want, but is not useful if you focus your energy on others or on feelings of resentment,” Marter says. “Instead, direct that energy to achieve what it is that you want.”
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.
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