Some days at work can feel like an emotional roller coaster ride – you can’t get off midway, and it’s hard to restrain your reactions to the stress you’re being put through, minus all the fun of a joy ride.
But why is it so important to regulate emotions? What’s the point of restraining such a basic human tendency? What is the worst that could happen if emotions are not regulated at work?
To find out take the following lessons
Please study the video carefully and attempt the quiz question located at the bottom of the page at the end of each lesson.
Good Luck and Happy Learning!
During her 10 years as chief executive of eBay, Meg Whitman, was known as a demanding leader who was quick to express displeasure with employees who failed to live up to her standards.
But on one occasion, she allegedly went too far — and paid the price for it.
On the morning of June 1, 2007, Ms. Whitman was preparing for an interview with the news wire Reuters, in her personal conference room, and Ms. Young Mi Kim, an eBay employee, was helping out by writing talking points on a whiteboard.
Details of what happened next are sketchy; there were no eyewitnesses. But according to eBay employees familiar with the incident, Ms. Whitman became angry with Ms. Kim, partly because Ms. Whitman felt unprepared for the conversation with Reuters.
Ms. Kim would complain later that Ms. Whitman verbally abused and shoved her. Ms. Kim was not injured, but she hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit. The dispute, finally, was resolved through a private mediator, with the company paying an undisclosed six-figure financial settlement amount to Ms. Kim.
What’s important to note here though, is that interviews with many eBay executives who worked with Ms. Whitman suggest that the episode with Ms. Kim, and the alleged abusive behavior, was an anomaly. Ms. Whitman’s sharp temper bursts notwithstanding, they knew of no other incidents similar to the one that happened with Ms. Kim. And some even praised Ms. Whitman’s leadership style.
Furthermore, while most would argue that Meg Whitman crossed a line when she manhandled Ms. Kim, what no one knows is whether or not her gripe with Ms. Kim was legitimate.
Bottom line: No matter how righteous your cause, how flawless your reputation, failure to regulate your emotions will cost you, one way or another.
Being in the grip of emotions
Emotions are the most present, pressing force in our lives. We are driven everyday by our emotions. We take chances because we’re excited about new prospects, and we make sacrifices because we love. Our emotions dictate our thoughts and actions with seemingly superior authority over our rational minds.
Emotions and feelings can alter between dangerous extremes. And when we act on our emotions too quickly, we often make decisions that we later regret. And it isn’t just angry outbursts we’re speaking of. Other emotions like sadness, envy, embarrassment and even frustration tend to spiral out of control, especially immediately after they are triggered.
It stands therefore, that negative emotions must be handled with care, especially under the harshest conditions. The question is how.
Emotion regulation — the processes by which individuals influence their emotions — is the antidote to being in the grip of emotions.
lthough it may sometimes feel like they strike us out of the blue, emotions unfold over time. Through emotion regulation we can interfere with emotional processes at different points during the emotion generation timeline using different strategies.
While there are a myriad of methods to manage emotions, researchers have identified a few defining features of emotion regulation. Here they are.
Here are a few techniques you can employ to take to control of your emotions and regain rationality in any challenging situation. This is not an exhaustive list.
1. Don’t react right away. Respond later instead.
Reacting immediately to emotional triggers will almost guarantee that you’ll say or do something you’ll later regret. Before jumping in with your emotional argument, take a deep breath and stabilize the overwhelming impulse to retaliate. Continue to breathe deeply for a minute – it takes as little as ten seconds to regain control. The act of responding requires you to assess the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, and reflect on it. That reflection can last for a moment to a couple of days. What matters is that you stop and make an effort to think before arriving at a judgment. It is a conscious decision that shows you are willing to listen or observe.
This ‘gap’ between the circumstance and your behavior is what helps.
2. Pre-empt being hijacked by negative emotions:
During leisure time, introspect to figure out what your emotional trigger points are, and mentally rehearse your strategies. For example, if you know you tend to get irritable when you’re running late, and then completely lose when someone or something gets in your way, the simplest thing to do would be to leave way earlier. That way, you won’t be bothered so much by lounging pedestrians, erring motorists, or slow elevators.
If, however, you do find yourself caught up in a trigger situation in spite of your best efforts, the best thing to do is meditate.
Meditation helps you control your emotions because it takes your focus away from them.
Here’s how. Close your eyes (situation permitting) and focus on your breathing for as long as it takes you to calm down. Feel yourself inhale and exhale; count your breaths if you like. That’s it.
Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult, but it takes regular practice to truly harness their stress-relieving power. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice.
4. Learn to give and receive feedback effectively:
Take responsibility for your emotions – acknowledge and understand them better. Bottling up emotions is never a good idea – you should seek to express your point of view and encourage expression of the other’s point of view, in the interest of emotion regulation. Your perspective on the situation could be very different from the other person’s reality.
When giving feedback, use ‘When I ‘statements to create a bridge for the opposite person to understand your emotions. For instance – ‘When I don’t receive your report on time, it gets me all stressed out’. The focus is in your opinion of the matter, it is seen as non-threating and inoffensive. On the flip side, ‘You’ statements sound accusatory and judgmental and closes down communication lines. For instance, ‘You never ever send your reports in on time.’
Receiving feedback well involves asking for exact details, asking questions and paraphrasing for better understanding and then taking the desired action. Following these steps will ensure you handle feedback, especially criticism with tact and grace as opposed to getting defensive and argumentative.
Stressful situations are all too common in our modern-day workplace, we become locked into the present moment very easily, especially when dealing with the immediacy of failed projects and bad tempers. However, if you follow the four techniques mentioned above you will be off to a great start with exercising control over negative emotions and responding effectively.
Because emotions must be handled with care, especially under when the going gets tough.
Remember Meg Whitman?