Keeping Your Emotions in Check

By The Intersect Group

Well, here we are: this is the last post in our “New Manager Advice Series.”

And, even though the topic for this post is the last one we’ll write about for the series, it is by no means the least of them: keeping your emotions in check at work is paramount if you want to succeed, whether you’re a manager or not.


First, an important point: you don’t need to be a robot

When we say “keep your emotions in check,” we don’t mean you have to be someone who never feels emotions, nor do you always have to keep them hidden.

What we mean is, you need to control them: exhibiting strong emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, generally is considered “not good.” (Although, to be fair, many people are starting to believe that’s not true – and working hard to “make” “being emotional at work” okay.)

Yet here’s the truth: the overly strong emotional exhibitions: shouting, clapping and laughing loudly, slamming doors, hitting your fists on your desk in frustration, sobbing, etc., are behaviors that you as a manager should never exhibit publicly. Not if you want to be taken seriously as a manager. (Or if you’re gunning to move into a leadership role.)


Managers are leaders, and leaders must remain calm

Your team members view you as a model for correct behavior in the workplace. And they do so both consciously and subconsciously. So if you slack off, they will slack off. If you work hard, so will they. If you yell in frustration, they will, too.

The result: you as the manager will become known to your manager, possibly even company-wide, as someone who has no control over both your own emotions and your team. (You’ll also be perceived as someone who doesn’t remain calm under pressure. Leaders remain calm; you do not. Therefore you’re no leader.


Tips for managing your emotions

 As you read the list of over-the-top emotional exhibitions above, what do they have in common? Most of them pertain to negative emotions: anger, especially.

In fact, when most experts talk about keeping emotions in check at work, they’re talking about keeping negative emotions at bay. Reactions to positive emotions such as laughing, clapping, doing a little jig of joy, shedding a few tears at happy news: most of them are okay to exhibit.

So the tips below primarily pertain to keeping over-the-top exhibitions of anger, sadness, etc., in check. 

  • A terrific tip: ask questions.

The last link above mentions that one of the best things you can do when in a stressful situation is to start asking questions.

Asking questions does two things: it helps you look calm to others, and it helps you allay your fears (big emotions often are a result of fear) about a situation, so you don’t have to respond/have an answer until you know more about what’s really going on.

Over-the-top reactions often happen immediately when a fearful/unknown/lousy news situation occurs. Asking questions also gives you time to become calm before coming up with a response or answer to a problem.

  • Another terrific idea: tell yourself to stay calm now because you’ll allow yourself to really react after work.

A terrible, horrible, no good, awful situation always ends. And if it doesn’t, you can be sure this day will end.

Keep that in mind when you feel your anger, stress, and emotions rising and tell yourself that you can scream, yell and pound a desk…at home later.

You can also take a more critical, unemotional look at whatever is causing your stress and develop a solution when you’re away from the situation.  You’ll undoubtedly be much better prepared to handle it the next day.

  • If you remember anything, remember this: you choose how you will react. You always have a choice.

Any reaction is a choice. No one makes us react to anything in a certain way. You may feel your emotions rising, but there’s no unstoppable force making you erupt.

It’s true: taking just a few seconds to take a few deep breaths before reacting works! It’s perhaps the best way to help you keep strong emotions from bubbling out in one or more inappropriate ways.


Is your next step one that leads to management?

Many of the people we work with recently found new positions in management. (It’s why we thought it would be a great idea to offer this advice series.)

If you’ve decided it’s time for a promotion to a leadership role, take a look at The Intersect Group’s current opportunities and apply to those that appeal to you.

Even if you don’t see anything now, contact us anyway: we regularly receive new assignments and career opportunities.