How to Deal with Emotions at Work: 4 Tips for Managers and Leaders

Last updated: 12-20-2019

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How to Deal with Emotions at Work: 4 Tips for Managers and Leaders

Have you ever had a deadline moved up a week on a project? Or gotten an unexpected promotion for all your hard work? The workplace can be an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes your employees are simply trying not to lose their cookies on the ride.

Employees are human, and humans are emotional. This doesn’t exclude the workplace. And the best leaders and managers know how to help employees navigate their emotions and get back on track.

Learning how to deal with emotions at work can help you boost engagement and build a culture of trust. If you ignore emotions in the workplace, unresolved issues might lead to decreased productivity, damaged relationships, and lowered engagement.

But how do you handle these emotions, while maintaining your own composure? Regardless of how well you manage your own emotions, you can’t control the emotions of others. But it is important to learn how to acknowledge them and respond appropriately.

No one is perfect—plain and simple. Mistakes are inevitable and, although they don’t need to be simply accepted, they also aren’t grounds for a scolding. Berating or punishing employees, especially in front of their peers, can cause humiliation and hostility toward you.

On the flip side, calmly correcting or excusing the rare mistake is a great way to build trust. In fact, helping reduce negative emotions with transparency, open communication, and authenticity will lead to better relationships with your employees. But if mistakes continue to pile up, you should schedule time with your employees to create a performance improvement plan. This plan will help make sure both parties are on the same page and set clear expectations for success.

Sharing emotions, especially uncomfortable ones, is one way to show our vulnerability. And let’s be honest, we can’t be vulnerable if we don’t trust the people that we’re sharing our stories with. Everyone in your organization—from senior leadership to interns, and part-timers to remote workers—should feel comfortable being themselves and expressing their emotions.

It’s not enough just to let employees know they can share their feelings; you must be willing to be the example too. When employees can witness a culture of honesty and compassion, they’ll be able to understand how others feel and adjust accordingly.

When managers and leaders are consistently unavailable, employees tend to get anxious and don’t feel valued. Regularly making time to connect with your team provides opportunities for you to instill confidence in your employees, their work, and their performance. Empowering your team members to stay connected in this way helps build positive relationships.

Set uninterrupted time apart for each employee at least once a month. And if you're really committed to the cause, our recommendation is once a week—even if it’s a quick check-in. These meetings offer employees an opportunity to ask questions, provide updates, raise concerns, and provide feedback. Additionally, these are perfect times to celebrate successes to increase positive emotions in the workplace.

Much of the time, someone experiencing negative emotions isn’t searching for solutions. They simply want to express themselves and release all the pent-up emotions they feel. Listening to your employees allows them to get it all out there and makes them feel cared for and heard. It also establishes you as a trusted resource who can be depended on.

Your employees are only human, and humans are emotional creatures. Addressing emotions—both positive and negative—is important for recognizing your employees for who they are and improving your emotional culture. Dealing with the emotions of your employees at work is only the first step. Use these tips to guide your engagement efforts and bring humanity back to the workplace.

See how emotions could be affecting employee engagement across your organization with our ebook, Emotions in the Workplace: How Employees Feel at Work and Why It Matters.

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