Handling Emotions in the Workplace


Emotions play a big role in our personality. Sometimes they cloud our judgement and at other times they enhance the relationships around us. We spend a large percentage of our lives in the workplace. It’s only natural to let our emotions out from time to time.

How do you handle people who bring their emotions to the workplace?

Remember the intention – In the workplace, often times you have to remember the intention of the person.  The verbal and/physical delivery of the message tends to take more of a focus rather than the intention of the message.  This causes us to lose the point of the conversation and there is no solution. I’ll use the example of a performance review.  If a manager gives a negative review to the employee, it gets the employee upset. But, if the intention of the manager is to improve the employee’s development by giving them a negative review, then the employee can take that feedback in a positive way and make changes.

Separate fact from emotion – If someone becomes passionate or emotional, it’s important to remember to separate the fact from their emotion.  Many times, emotions tend to mask what the underlying issue is.  The focus becomes how the person feels and whey they feel the way that they do, versus the cold hard facts of the conversation.  Focusing on the emotion can hinder the development of the solution and distract the conversation.  To separate fact from emotion, ignore the emotional response, and think about what they would be saying if the emotion didn’t exist.  Find the message in conversation and talk about that.

Stay on topic – Emotional conversations tend to take a path of their own.  Many times, emotional conversations start with the present tense and take us back in history to revisit how things were and what the problems were.  This distracts us from the topic at hand. Sometimes we stay in the past, and never make it back to the present situation.  Therefore, make sure that emotional conversations come back and stay in the present tense and relevant to the topic so you can address the root cause. Then you can start to identify and address it and come up with a solution.  Make sure you motivate conversations to focus on the topic, and finding a solution.

Listen and keep it objective – Depending on the person and their perspective, some “you” or “I” statements can be taken very personally.  This causes emotions to flow and begins to hinder the goal of the conversation.  Using “we” or “us” statements keeps the conversation objective and general, minimizing a personal attack and mitigating an emotional response. Many times during the conversation, bringing emotional issues into the general perspective helps diffuse emotions on the spot.  For example, if someone comes to you with a problem and they are very emotional, you can diffuse it by giving it time and listening to what they have to say and then explaining the general perspective in a non-biased way.

Purvi Bodawala is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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