When Negativity Reigns:What Types of Emotions Exist in Your Workplace?

Posted by Elizabeth Levey
August 21, 2014

by Elizabeth Levey 


elizabeth-levey-1Even though we may think we are effectively holding them in check, emotions, both positive and negative, can and do play a role at work.  This is because emotions impact our behavior — whether we want to admit it or not — and others see this behavior.


What if negative feelings and negativity in general are rearing their ugly heads and wreaking havoc in your company? How can you keep one bad apple from ruining the bunch?  Or harder still -- what if YOU’RE the bad apple?  It’s time dust off your Emotional Intelligence (aka EI or EQ) skills and deal with Negative Nelly:


1. Tap into your emotional self-awareness. Take a moment for introspection. We’ve all heard we should types-of-emotions-1“leave our problems at the door” when we step into work, but this is usually not an actionable expectation.  We are human, after all, and experience all types of emotions on a daily basis. Obviously, compartmentalizing our lives is very difficult and unrealistic for all of us.  However, taking a moment to recognize your colleague’s bad mood/fear/anxiety/stress (or your own!) is a step in the right direction. Recognize that home stress, over-commitment, health and wellness issues are difficult to hold at bay. Daniel Goleman, EI expert and author, writes, “To the body, there is not division between home and work; stress builds on stress, no matter the source.”


2. Access your emotional self-control skills. Know when you need to take a day off (if possible) to take care of your personal business. Chances are the work will still be there when you get back, and doing so will make you more productive and focused. Additionally, be aware of what makes you lose your cool or focus. Is it when you feel that you’re not being listened to? Or is it when people don’t meet deadlines? If you can identify what makes you lose your self-control, you can be proactive in your communication; for example, “I need to stress that we have to meet our deadline of Tuesday. Let’s build out a schedule right now together to ensure we do.”


3. Manage your emotional expression. In our Essential Presentation Skills workshops, we learn about the different components of communication: visual, vocal, and verbal, and the impact they all have on communication. You may not be giving or attending a formal presentation, but be mindful of what your vocal energy and body language are communicating.  Short, curt speech and terse exchanges with colleagues are a few examples of how negativity is often communicated in the workplace.  If you catch yourself behaving this way, take a moment to consciously change your style.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of this type of communication, try not to take it personally and if possible, get out of the situation as soon as you’re able!


As we’ve previously discussed on our blog and will in our webinars, Emotional Intelligence has a huge impact in the workplace.  Studies have shown that rudeness and disrespect cause stress that costs U.S. businesses $300 billion per year.  Negativity can be an insidious problem.  Throughout life we learn that we can’t control the actions or feelings of others, only our reaction to them.  By turning up your EQ, you can develop some strong strategies for dealing with Debbie Downer, and make sure that you’re not adding fuel to the negativity fire yourself.



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