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3 minute read

5 Steps to Help You Manage Your Emotions and Stay Professional at Work

Learn how to control your emotions before they control you with these five steps.


You might have experienced one of these situations where you lost control of your emotions – perhaps you snapped at a colleague, flared up at an unreasonable customer, or growled at groupmates who failed to do their assigned tasks.

While these may be normal and often understandable reactions, they may still be regarded as unprofessional behaviour, which can negatively affect your professional reputation.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely suppress your emotions at work! Knowing how to better control these emotions and express them tactfully is a crucial skill for every professional to master. Follow these tips to better manage your emotions at work:

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1. Identify negative emotions

If you feel negative emotions rising, start looking for physical signs such as tenseness in your forehead and shoulders when you’re worried, or anger manifesting as heat in your head and cheeks.

Emotions tend to be triggered by external factors, like anxiety from starting a new job or project, so get to know these triggers and connect them to the emotions that arise.

2. Acknowledge your emotions

Emotions tend to get more heated when you’re in a situation beyond your control, such as stress from a demanding schedule or looming deadlines. We often hear phrases that encourage repressing these feelings, such as “calm down” and “it’s not a big deal”. Unfortunately, suppression does more harm than good, as bottling up emotions often leaves you a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode.

Instead, acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing, and accept that they’re there. You can start by telling yourself: “I’m upset because this affects me for this part of my day.”

Pro tip: Try not to make important decisions when you’re feeling emotional.

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3. Give yourself some space

By space, it does not mean drawing a circle around your desk. It’s about intentionally “removing” yourself from the situation. You can recompose yourself in various ways, such as by pretending to be a fly on the wall, taking an objective look at the situation, or simply counting from one to 10 while taking deep breaths to cool down.

Once you’ve given yourself space to think, you’ll likely realise that the situation isn’t as bad as you initially thought it was, and you’ll be in a better headspace to approach it!

4. Find a “safe person” to confide in

It may not be easy to find someone you can share your emotions and feelings with, but take your time and slowly get to know a trusted friend who can empathise with you. They don’t even need to be a fellow employee at your company, though that’s a bonus as they will be able to better relate to your emotions.

Building a “safe friendship” starts with you, so be that trustworthy person first. It is important to be honest with the person you’re looking to trust!

Pro tip: Like you, your colleagues are humans with feelings, too. You can avoid burning professional bridges if you’re aware of your emotions and have a good handle on them.

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5. Draw boundaries to help you recharge

Not checking work emails or messages after working hours is one example of a boundary. The most important thing about boundaries is that they should be clear to yourself and others, to help you prevent negative emotions at work from spilling into your personal life.

Use your personal time to really “switch off”, recharge and unwind. By doing so, you’ll be able to stick to healthy responses at work when your emotions get involved.

Pro tip: When establishing boundaries, be sure that you’re comfortable with them, because you’ll have to stick to them!

At the end of the day, our emotions are a vital part of our daily lives. We should always be aware of our emotions, as well as that of others. Even if you do have an emotional outburst, there is no need to condemn yourself – be respectful and apologise, and take some time to recalibrate before getting back to the grind.

This article is contributed by gradsingapore.

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