How well do you manage your emotions at work?

Angela Joyner. Photo by Andrew Collings.

We have all experienced conflict at work.  I can recall several occasions when someone at work has “triggered” an unpleasant or negative emotion.  Confronting negative emotions or people can be intimidating and mentally exhausting.  As a result, we often avoid confrontation or try to quickly move beyond the awkward moments.  When I try to “speed” through the uncomfortable situation, I rob myself of the opportunity to dig a little deeper and explore the root cause of the emotion.  If I actually sit down and think about my reaction, I usually find that there is an unresolved issue or feeling that I have not completely dealt with from my past.  The emotions are sometimes the by-product of a failed relationship.  My emotions can also be triggered by disappointments or betrayal.  I have learned that if I have not adequately addressed the unresolved emotions, they will typically “show up” again later and with more intensity.

As I have evolved as a leader, I have learned to pay more attention to my emotions, physical cues, and body language during conflict.  I am more sensitive to the type of people and situations that agitate me.  When those occur, I quickly identify the source of the emotion and then focus on trying to achieve a positive or constructive outcome.  While I have not become an expert at controlling my emotions as work, I am getting better.

Coaches Challenge:  Pay special attention this week to situations or people who “trigger” negative emotions in your professional and personal life.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I being so reactive to this person/situation?
  • What is unresolved in my life?
  • What do I need to address so that I can better manage my emotions?
  • How might my emotions be hindering my success at work?

How Well Do You Manage Your Emotional Reactions at Work?



Automatic, negative responses to people or events often indicate a hypersensitivity that’s referred to as “getting your buttons pushed.” At work, these emotional reactions can limit your career advancement and cap the level of success you might achieve. Usually these sensitivities have their origins in hurtful childhood experiences, such as repeatedly being criticized, rejected or controlled. We sometimes take this emotional baggage into the workplace with us.

Answer the following two sets of questions, true or false, to discover how well you manage your emotional reactions at work.

Set 1


1. When anyone critiques my work—constructively or not—I tend to shut down and withdraw or feel ashamed.

2. When someone hurts me I typically lash out at them or blame myself.

3. I hate it when colleagues tell me I’m “too sensitive.”

4. When a colleague says or does something that makes me mad, it takes me a long time to let go of it. I often carry a grudge or resent the person.

5. Sometimes I have no idea why I respond to coworkers the way that I do—I just can’t control myself.


Set 2


1. If I feel inordinately upset or angered by something at work, rather than blaming someone for my feelings, I try to take an honest look at myself to see what I can learn from the situation.

2. When I feel agitated, I know it often has nothing to do with the person who pushed my buttons.

3. If after I have calmed down and returned to a professional state of mind, I find that a current situation needs to be addressed, I do so in a constructive manner.

4. I’m aware of the type of situations to which I am most likely to overreact. Now I can quickly recognize when my buttons have been pushed, and I am less reactive.

5. When my buttons do get pushed now, I am able to see any unresolved personal issues needing my attention. I can then return my focus to my work.

If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn how to deal more effectively with your emotional responses in the workplace. Your success depends on it.

If you would like to learn how to become a more effective leader at work schedule a “Get Acquainted” call on

Author’s content used under license, © 2010 Claire Communications






Wonder Loft wisdom


If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then not matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

-Daniel Goleman

The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.

-Oscar Wilde

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s