How Well Do You Manage Your Emotional Reactions at Work?

Susan S Freeman Blog

Emotions at workThis month’s Step Up Leader theme is…

“Why Your Emotions Can Make or Break You as a Leader and What You Can Do About It.”


Because emotional reactions at work are so common and so many struggle to interpret, control, and dance around the emotional wildfires, I thought this to be an appropriate blog topic for this week.

Automatic, negative responses to people or events often indicate a hypersensitivity that’s referred to as “getting your buttons pushed.” At work, these emotional reactions can limit your influence, leadership, and career advancement, thereby limiting the level of success you might achieve. Usually these sensitivities have their origins in hurtful childhood experiences, such as repeatedly being criticized, rejected or controlled. Because we’re all human, we sometimes take them into the workplace with us.

Answer the following two sets of questions, true or false, to discover how well you manage your emotional reactions at work.

Be completely honest with yourself; it is the first step in making positive changes to get more of what you want.

Set 1

Emotions at work1. When anyone critiques my work—constructively or not—I tend to shut down and withdraw or feel ashamed.

2. When someone hurts me—for instance, if they fail to acknowledge my contribution—I lash out at them or blame myself.

3. I hate it when colleagues tell me I’m “too sensitive.”

4. When a colleague says or does something that makes me mad, it takes me a long time to let go of it. I often carry resentment.

5. Sometimes I have no idea why I respond to coworkers the way that I do—I just can’t control myself.


Set 2

1. If I feel inordinately upset or angered by something at work, rather than blaming someone for making me feel what I’m feeling, I take a deep breath, and then take an honest look at myself to see what I can learn from the situation.

2. When I feel “triggered,” I know it often has nothing to do with the person who pushed my buttons.

3. If after I have calmed down and returned to a “centered” state of mind, I find that a current situation needs to be addressed, I do so in a constructive manner.

4. I’m familiar with the situations to which I am most likely to overreact. More quickly now I recognize when my buttons have been pushed, and I am less reactive.

5. When my buttons do get pushed now, I am able to see any unresolved personal issues needing my attention. I can then return my focus to my work.

If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may wish to learn how to deal more effectively with your emotional responses in the workplace. Your success depends on it.

Here are 3 tips to help you right away: 

  1. Make a practice of preparing yourself mentally and physically for those conversations that you know in advance may trigger you.
  2. Take a few deep breaths before walking into a meeting, or if you are already in the meeting, excuse yourself to take several slow, deep inhalations.  The breath will bring you back to center when your emotions “highjack” your rational brain
  3. If you feel blamed or helpless, choose a more empowering feeling, usually an opposite one.  Get yourself into experiencing the positive emotion instead.  See the difference, feel the difference.  You actually can choose a more positive emotion that will serve you.

For more ideas and help on how to get started, schedule a free “Breakthrough Your Barriers” Strategy Session.

In the meantime, post your comments or tips of your own here….

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