Humans are emotional creatures by nature and during the course of a day or even an hour we experience a myriad of emotions fuelled by thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts and emotions we experience are backed up by negative behaviours which make workplace environments unpredictable and at times unpleasant.
What I find so interesting about the work I do with businesses, is that emotions in the workplace are almost treated like a taboo. In the sense no one talks about them, rarely are people pulled up on inappropriate or negative emotional behaviour and no one ever teaches you about emotions as part of people development programmes. Yet this is such a massive part of what makes us who we are every day with individuals being ambushed by their emotions unexpectedly on a regular basis. Needless to say, you will have all regularly experienced the effects of other workers negative emotions on a daily basis!
The co-workers who never have anything positive to say, whether at the weekly meeting or in the coffee line. They can suck the energy from a brainstorming session with a few choice comments. Their bad mood frequently puts others in one, too. Their negativity can contaminate even good news. Or perhaps you have the disengaged one (seems they have no emotion) , or the overly emotional one that cries every time they sense they may be under pressure or being targeted for anything negative or the angry, sensitive one that everyone fears going near or asking any questions of.
E-mail, instant messaging and video have created challenges to the workplace communication. E-mails and instant messages can be misunderstood because there are no facial expressions, intonation and body language included — cues that help convey emotions. Some people, work hard at making their emails neutral, with the downside of sometimes sounding curt. Some people may add a smattering of exclamation points, question marks and capital letters in an attempt to convey more emotion, but this can also be dangerous, particularly when attempting humour or sarcasm to drive home a point.
Every workplace is a hotch potch of emotions but how can you handle negativity appropriately? While you can’t necessarily change your co-worker’s emotions you can take steps to manage your emotions and the effect of others around you. We can connect more heart with our brain. See the Top Tips section below.
Remember too that it is not appropriate nor healthy to hide all emotions for the course of a work day. Research shows that organisations where employees report having a positive workplace culture end up with much higher productivity, engagement, collaboration, energy and less absenteeism. Research is conclusive–emotions are contagious, especially in group settings. Negative attitudes lead to destruction, while positive attitudes lead to construction.
Isn’t it then such an obvious area to educate and develop with all employees in an organisation???
Perhaps this is because we have failed to recognize that engagement is fundamentally an emotional phenomenon. If you minimise or block emotional experience and expression, as many workplaces do, you are blocking engagement. Unprocessed emotions become bottled-up and will kill employee engagement and create dysfunctional teams long into the future.
Practice emotional intelligence skills daily – the most effective I believe are developing emotional self-awareness and self-management both in the workplace and in your personal life. Learning new tools and techniques on how to manage emotions are easier than you might think.
Check out Open The Door Wellbeing emotions programme in my new web app. You will learn about emotions and why they are so important in your life, how to use emotions positively and also how emotions affect you and those around you. (www.OpenTheDoor.com).
Human engagement is, at heart, an emotional experience. Given that many current efforts to improve engagement in the workplace aren’t making a significant difference, isn’t it time we consider some bold new approaches?