Show of emotions

Expressing negative emotions is frowned upon in the professional workplace. But sometimes you just cannot help feeling angry, upset or worried. So how should you react? Iwona Tokc-Wilde finds out

show-of-emotions


Emotions are part of being human but, traditionally, accountants are expected to keep a stiff upper lip and refrain from showing their true feelings.

‘However, spending eight hours a day, five days a week with the same group of people can be enough to test even the most patient person, and this is made worse during stressful times,’ says Kirstie Mackey, careers guru and head of LifeSkills, a programme created with Barclays, helping young people learn about employability skills.

Nearly every day something happens that has the potential to drive you mad, make you jealous or anxious, or even move you to tears. Have you just been assigned far more work than you can handle? Has your manager snapped at you for no reason? Or perhaps you’ve just found out you’re not getting that pay rise after all, even though you were so certain it was in the bag?

‘Disappointment at work is a fact of life; at some point somebody will get promoted over you, you won’t be put in your preferred team or your efforts won’t be recognised,’ says Mackey.

If you are new to employment, you are particularly vulnerable to feeling emotional at work, ‘particularly if your expectations of the world of work are not in line with reality,’ says Joss Collins, financial services recruiter at Venn Group.

The same is true if you are changing jobs. Noel Brady, global executive coach at Inside Out, explains: ‘Most businesses have long established patterns of behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and general energy levels – some new joiners find it easy to align with this culture and way of working, but others find it hard to fit in, often feeling anxious and frustrated.’ 

At times like these you are prone to emotional outbursts, but they can damage your reputation and your career progress. How should you react instead? How do manage and control your emotions in the office? We have gathered views and helpful advice from coaches, career gurus and financial recruiters.

How can you prepare yourself to cope with emotions at work?


Leave your ego at home
‘Be mindful of your thoughts, judgments and assumptions about others. Every day we bring our ego into work, but the problem with ego is that it’s a composite of all our previous significant experiences in life – schooling, parental influences and social status. Egocentric thinking based on past experiences isn’t going to help you.’

Noel Brady, global executive coach at Inside Out   


Develop emotional intelligence
‘Learn to “listen” to your emotions and really take notice of them. This way you will be able to control your emotions or rather “regulate” your behaviour, rather than simply “act out” the feeling. Being emotionally sensitive, thoughtful and smart at how you act on your emotions is often called “emotional intelligence”.’

Nic Marks, expert on happiness in the workplace and founder of Happiness Works


Be aware of how others process emotions
‘According to the personality profiling system “Four Colours” (red, green, blue and yellow), depending on which personality category you fall into, you will react to situations differently. So, if you are a “blue” talking to another “blue”, you will probably process your emotions in a similar way. But a ”red” may not necessarily understand your feelings.’

Robin Kermode, communications coach and author of Speak so your audience will listen

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE FEELING OVERCOME WITH NEGATIVE EMOTIONS?


Take a step back
‘Firing off an angry email in the heat of the moment may make you feel better in the short term, but it will ultimately make the situation worse. Also, taking 15 minutes away from your desk can often make the problem (and your stress levels) a lot smaller.’

Kirstie Mackey, careers guru and head of LifeSkills, a programme created with Barclays


‘Ask yourself, “Am I just having a bad day?” Put the situation into perspective before you act on it.’

Joss Collins, financial services recruiter at Venn Group


Practice mindfulness
‘Most people, most of the time are in a state of mindlessness – their unconscious mind is controlling their thoughts, feelings, choices and actions. So, if you find that you have formed an negative opinion of a colleague or boss, write down how you feel and what is making you feel like that. The formation of rapid initial impressions about someone is a standard human trait, but it’s not always helpful.’

Noel Brady, Inside Out


Consider how to fix it
‘Work out exactly what’s causing your feelings – is it a problem with the team, with a particular relationship, or with the work itself? Feelings of anger or upset can be a sign that something needs fixing, but when you talk to your manager, preferably in a formal meeting, it’s important to offer solutions, not just bring up the problem.’

Kirstie Mackey, LifeSkills


Check your posture and… push a wall
‘When we feel low, we often let our posture collapse too, but simply standing upright with a straighter back can alter your emotional state. And if you’re feeling angry or aggravated, stand in front of a wall and push it – this will help you release some of the frustration.’

Robin Kermode, communications coach


Don’t bottle emotions
‘Bottling up emotions is stressful and expressing how you feel about something is necessary so that others can understand your thinking. Also, sharing part of yourself with others is cathartic, rewarding and helps build stronger relationship.’

Noel Brady, Inside Out


Put negative emotions to good use
‘Disappointment is a natural response if things didn’t go your way, but it can also spur you on to make sure that whatever caused it doesn’t happen again. Pinpoint what went wrong by asking for feedback. Then set yourself goals so you’ll do better next time.’

Kirstie Mackey, LifeSkills


‘Fear of failure can be very powerful. But try to think of failure as a learning opportunity that is just a part of your journey of development. If you cannot allow yourself to fail, you will never take chances and your life will be static.’ 

Noel Brady, Inside Out

How can you express your feelings without coming across as ‘emotional’?


Control your movements
‘The label “emotional” comes from the way some people express their feelings – they get red faced, start making frantic eye movements, get agitated and leave the room, or freeze and then disappear.’

Ania Lichota, leadership mastery coach


Breathe to stay calm
‘If you are facing a difficult conversation, first breathe in through your nose very slowly for a count of three, then breathe out though your nose for a count of three, and repeat this three times. That should take you a total of 18 seconds. In that time you will have significantly lowered your heart rate, which will make you speak more slowly and you will appear calmer.’

Robin Kermode, communications coach


Remain professional
‘Ultimately, the office environment is a professional one, which means you need to learn to manage your emotions day to day. Being overly emotional can be seen as being unprofessional. Acknowledge your emotions and work with them rather than against them. It’ll make you a better employee and probably a happier one too.’

Kirstie Mackey, LifeSkills


‘Don’t shout, cry and point fingers.’

Joss Collins, Venn Group

"Work out exactly what’s causing your feelings – is it a problem with the team, with a particular relationship, or with the work itself? Feelings of anger or upset can be a sign that something needs fixing, but when you talk to your manager, preferably in a formal meeting, it’s important to offer solutions, not just bring up the problem"

Kirstie Mackey - LifeSkills