We all get emotional. We are human beings. We express emotion daily. There are times in our day to day where we can struggle with emotions. Where they can get the better of us. In these moments we can often say or do things we regret later. So, how can we manage emotions in the workplace to prevent conflict? 

You might need to learn how to regulate your emotions in the heat of the moment. Whenever you are overwhelmed, angry, frustrated or sad, it is important to recognise but then regulate in the workplace. 

Let’s dive into the things you can keep in mind when you need to manage your emotions at work. 

What emotions rise as a leader? 

Have you ever had to fight back tears at work? Maybe you felt overwhelmed by your emotions? You are not alone.

However, afterwards we can question why this happened. We are then hard on ourselves for not managing our emotions better. Don’t worry about all the times you have let emotions get the better of you in the workplace. But now it is time to create some change. 

Maybe we were part of the conflict and it doesn’t feel good to us. Maybe your values were threatened. All of these moments can create big emotions for us and these emotions then, in the heat of the moment, lead to certain behaviour.

Anger, frustration and a feeling of overwhelm are primary human responses to stress.

It can be triggered by:

  • Frustration
  • Injustice
  • Confrontation/ Conflict
  • High Pressure
  • High emotional investment
  • Values are threatened

Before we dive into some good self regulation tips, it is good to understand what happens when you feel triggered and why it might be happening. 

What happens with our emotions? 

Whenever we feel stressed, our body goes into fight or flight mode and releases cortisol and adrenaline. 

While we are in this state, we cannot access our rational “thinking brain”, the prefrontal cortex. Therefore we are unable to process the information and make a rational decision.

There is nothing wrong with having emotional responses in the workplace. 

Being sensitive can be your superpower. It shows you are invested and allows you to tune into your own emotions and the emotions of others.

But it is essential to remember that emotional self-regulation is a critical leadership capacity.

It is important to remain calm when things get tough to create a safe space for your team. Furthermore, self-regulation allows you to delay your response until you have time to think rationally.

How do you do that?

How can we manage emotions in the workplace? 

Remember, as a leader, you are a role model and as a leader, you often need to be able to self regulate your own emotions to be open and neutral. 

This helps your team members feel fully supported in what’s going on in the business. 

So self-regulation will allow you to delay your risks. For when your prefrontal cortex is switched on again, and you can actually think about your actions. The key is to step in when your emotions want to take over to stop automated responses. 

This is a big part of Emotional Intelligence, which starts with self-awareness. Self-awareness means that you are aware of what your emotions are doing with your body. Let’s go through some questions that can help: 

  1. What is the trigger for your emotional reactions? 
  2. What are certain situations that always set you off?
  3. What are things that are important to you? 
  4. If you’re feeling a certain emotion, how does that impact the thoughts and the things you tell yourself and impact your behaviour? 
  5. How does it feel when you start to lose control? 
  6. How does it feel in your body? 

So when you are really self-aware, you are able to activate your coping mechanisms well in advance so that you never go all the way into fight or flight. 

However, in the workplace and in life, things don’t always go to plan and we sometimes can be surprised. We can be put into situations that will set off all our emotional triggers.

But what you can do in these moments is aim to calm down your body. To calm down, our body needs to find a way to release the stress hormones and the pressure that has built up.

Crying is a quick way to clear our bodies from the built-up stress. But let’s look at the tips to calm down that might not involve crying (we don’t all want to cry at work, although it is okay). 

Tips on calming yourself down 

Other than crying, there are many ways you can calm yourself down. So when you feel emotions rise in the workplace, you are able to call on these within your toolkit to help you. 

Here are few coping techniques:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take a step back, literally
  • Take a break/ Remove yourself from the situation
  • Go for a walk/ Take a shower
  • Distract yourself/ Shift your focus
  • Write about it

But if all this fails and you have an emotional moment, that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. It shows you care. Just explain yourself. “As you can see, this is really important for me. I will take some space to think about it”. 

Final thoughts 

When you feel emotional at work, try and call on the practices you learnt within this article. Identify the emotions, remove yourself from the situation, calm your body down and return when you are ready. 

But the most important thing is to be kind to yourself.You can’t necessarily control your emotions. But you can bring awareness to them. If you are looking to create more self-awareness. If you are looking to develop more Emotional Intelligence, check out my free guide to support you in building more skills to help you as a leader.