Everybody gets emotional at work. This is very common to happen. We might shout, cry, or become very agitated. These are not professional behaviors in the workplace but they should not be career killers. If we look back at what happened, we understand the reasons why we acted this way and take the convenient steps to resolve the situation, we can transform any tantrum into an opportunity.
People who are more inclined to outbursts at work are usually those who do not have the emotional skills to manage their feelings as they are occurring. These people are divided in two categories: those who suppress their emotions and those who ruminate on them.
A person, who suppresses emotions, tries to pretend they just do not exist. He or she may feel frustrated, demoralized, or even annoyed by a colleague. And instead of recognizing what they are feeling, they will ignore it. These people often say to themselves, “Sure, I’m upset but I’m just going to get on with the project.” Then they work forward.
For task-focused persons, this behavior might be their emotional orientation because they consider emotions do not belong at work. However, according to a research conducted by NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), the effort done to constantly ignoring emotions takes up cognitive resources. In addition, some experiments led by the Society for Psychophysiological Research show that people who suppress emotions are very bad at problem solving skills, task completion, and interpersonal relationships and in the long-run lower well-being.
As for the second group of people, those who ruminate on their emotions, they are more likely to think, “I was undermined, I’ve been wronged, and I’ve been mistreated.” They become so obsessive with what they are feeling that they cannot even try to solve the problem. This behavior will make it difficult for them to take other people’s perspectives.
These two emotional styles, suppressing and ruminating, though they look completely different, they both reduce cognitive and emotional resources. In addition, they result in the same poor consequences in terms of problem solving, interpersonal relationships and wellbeing.
Furthermore, once you have recognized that your behavior corresponds to one of these styles, you have to make sure not to fall into it again. You have to be able to manage your emotions. But how? You have to recognize and understand them. You should start by being open to emotions by asking yourself, “What was I feeling here?”
Recognizing your emotions means being able to differentiate between feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration. Many people suffer from what psychologists call alexithymia, a dispositional difficulty in accurately labeling and expressing what they are feeling. These people tend to be vague about their emotions. According to a research done by the faculty of psychology and pedagogy of the university KELeuven, the ability to be differentiated in labeling feelings will protect you from having outbursts in the future and will enhance your relationships.
The next step after you recognize the emotion (fear, disappointment, anger), is to understand what exactly caused it, why you reacted in this particular way, what was happening in this situation that you found upsetting and what values of yours may have been challenged.
Many researches on emotions reveal that there are general triggers that you should know. For instance, if your outburst is anger, it is usually because you feel you have been stopped from doing something important to you. When you feel sad or cry, it is typically because of a loss. When you behave on anxiety, it is because you are feeling threatened.
After having recognized how you feel, and why you feel it, you have to manage the situation. It is beyond apologizing and repairing the situation. It is about to strengthen it. Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry about what I did; now let’s move on,” say something like, “I got really mad and I’m not proud of my behavior. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it was that I found so upsetting and I’ve realized that my sense of fairness was challenged because of how the defunding decisions were made.”
According to a research conducted by Stanford University, when you suitably reveal your emotions in this way, people are more likely to treat you with compassion and forgiveness than if you had just offered an apology. From there you can start to work better together.
Do not earn a reputation as a crier or a screamer in the workplace. Instead, work on yourself to turn any incident into an opportunity to grow.