We’ve all seen emotions displayed at work. As humans, it’s almost impossible to hide our emotions and often they can be a good thing – showing positive emotions at work can be highly motivating and engaging.
However, with emotions, there’s a downside too. Emotions can cause disproportionate reactions to events that can derail a team, waste a lot of time and destroy working relationships. This is particularly problematic in creative and innovative organisations where structures are less formal and people are often working on things they care deeply about.
So, what can we do about it?
By helping our people be more emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation is a person’s ability to keep their emotions proportionate to an event or situation. It doesn’t mean having any emotion, but it does mean keeping emotions under control which brings huge benefits in terms of engagement and productivity.
The benefits of emotional regulation
When people are emotionally regulated they can display joy, sadness, anger, fear - all grades of - at appropriate times. Unregulated people can be overly angry, fearful, sad or even joyful or come across as completely cold; showing no emotion at all.
Emotionally regulated people can listen carefully, appreciate multiple points of view and move ideas forward. Even if they have a preferred view, they are usually more interested in the best way forward, not necessarily that it’s theirs.
The value of emotional regulation is all the more apparent when we look at what can happen when it’s lacking.
The key impacts of a lack of emotional regulation
It’s a huge time waster
The inflexibility of thinking causes people to get stuck in pointless arguments about whose idea is best - often going round in circles many times. Not only does it waste time, but it also strains personal relations, damages productivity and creates a negative atmosphere.
You get stuck in politics and power struggles
All power struggles involve emotionally unregulated people, whether they are outright diva’s or cold calculated manipulators, these people will destroy innovation because they are more invested in themselves than the innovation, mission or idea.
It makes good decision making impossible
Emotion is part of good decision making. As we all know, decisions made on facts alone can go very wrong. Emotion should be part of the data for decision making - think E-Motion - it’s meant to move us forward. To be able to rely on our emotions as data though they need to be regulated and not allow ourselves to get triggered by our own stuff.
So how can you help your people to be more emotionally regulated?
Most people are not naturally this way, but they can achieve it by investing in a number of self-development activities that your organisation can support.
- Self-directed learning
- Helping others
- Training (particularly on conflict management and negotiation skills)
- Support for a healthy diet.
Many of these activities are found within a culture of employee wellbeing. You may find this article of help with some simple strategies for employee wellbeing.
The influence of leadership
One of the most powerful ways though is to role model it from the top. Leaders are under pressure but if they can display the traits of emotional regulation then it sets an example for others to follow.
Of course, this is a big ask as leaders often care EVEN MORE than others about their mission, and we are more likely to get triggered by things we care about, but it is possible and we would suggest, well worth the effort.
Emotional regulation is just one facet of effective leadership. To find out more about how we support leaders to reach their full potential, please see our Leadership Development page and, if you are concerned about the impact of difficult behaviour and want tips on resolving the problem, you will find our recent blog of help.
Being emotional is part of being human, and as long as the workplace is populated by humans, our emotions will be evident in our behaviours at work. Emotional regulation teaches us to keep those emotions appropriate to the situation wherever possible. As is often the case, the benefits of a solution come from recognising the problem and investing in resolving it. Organisations can help create the conditions for better emotional regulation by supporting self-development and leaders – often seen as being under pressure themselves – can lead by example.
For further information
We’ve brought together a range of programmes to support organisations build a healthy and more productive workplace. Find out more on our Employee Wellbeing page.
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, John is also a Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. His new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.