Leadership Matters: Managing Emotions in the Workplace

business manager reassures frustrated and upset employee
By Angela Civitella

3 minutes

Honesty, understanding and diligence from leaders allow employees to express feelings in a safer and healthier way.

Emotions are part of the human condition. We deal with them in every interaction, every single day. From work to home to social events, our emotions shift depending on many factors. In the workplace, when expectations are high and resources are low, emotional outbursts might become the norm rather than the exception. When you are in a position of leadership, you also have the added pressure to set the tone for others to follow.

Aiming for an “emotion free” business environment, while perhaps a nice thought, is also completely unrealistic. Too many unforeseen events and outside influences make it impossible to work in an emotionally controlled environment. The secret to success is learning how to manage those emotions, whether you are in an aspiring leader or the CEO.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the sometimes-messy world of alpha personalities, divas and leaders-in-the-making professionally and successfully.

Honesty Goes a Long Way

No one likes to work with Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. If you’re honest about your struggles, your team will develop stronger feelings of loyalty and trust because they can relate to you. In fact, it might make them more mindful about not creating chaos themselves.

Being honest doesn’t mean you have to divulge all the little personal details of your life, but being more open about certain things will strengthen the bond of the team. What you’ll more than likely find is that coworkers or employees will feel more comfortable opening up to say something like, “I often feel this way …” or “Let me tell you how I deal with …” Personal relationships strengthen professional leadership.

It’s good to be honest. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

Don’t Wait for Armageddon

Before reacting, leaders should go deeper and look for what is triggering an employee’s emotional behavior in the first place. Making the effort to understand the employee’s feelings positions you to deal with issues at their root level. You will be much more likely to prevent an outburst that hurts team morale if you’re able to avoid getting to the boiling point. Don’t pretend chaos isn’t happening, but do help whomever is having a meltdown gain his or her sanity back. The key is to deal with workplace emotions swiftly without making the other person feel attacked or threatened. Be clear about what is being criticized or reprimanded, if necessary, and focus on resolving the issue.

The Link Between Gender and Crying

Tears are the workplace equivalent of a “check engine” sign. It could mean an employee is overworked, sick, angry or frustrated. Rather than seeing tears as a sign of weakness, be aware that they signify an underlying need that should be addressed. Get to work as a leader and address it.

By the way, women are six times more likely than men to cry at work, but men experience strong emotions in the workplace, too. They just have different ways of expressing and dealing with them.

Managing Your Own Emotions at Work

If you are a leader feeling overwhelmed, take a well-deserved breather. Keep it short, no need to explain. Simply say, “You know what, I need quick a break. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.” And just like that, take a break. Taking time to focus on your own mental health and well-being is one of the most important things you can do to support your professional success. Neglecting your emotions will have adverse effects. Not only will taking a step back help you tremendously, but as a leader, you’re setting an important example for your employees by demonstrating that it’s OK to take care of yourself.

The Takeaway

Leaders have a complex challenge when it comes to managing emotions in the workplace, where the ripple effect of any emotional situation can run deep. This is an area where great leaders can really set themselves apart by approaching the expression of emotions as something healthy for the organization.

Angela Civitella is a business leadership coach and founder of the firm INTINDE.

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