Emotions are ubiquitous with work experiences. That’s another way of saying that work in itself is an emotional experience. If we were to ask you what your best day at work was, and contrast that with your worst day at work, we would guess that the two incidents there would be emotional ones. Perhaps your positive experience involved a sense of accomplishment and pride from being recognized for your contributions to the group. Your negative experience – your most torrid day at work, on the other hand, might have been that bust-up with your colleague or that time you got reprimanded for a mistake you made. Over the course of your daily nine-to- five though, it pays to be mindful and vigilant of how your emotions are impacting your productivity.
The role of emotions in the workplace has been a topic of research for the past three decades. That makes it a fairly ‘new’ area of study – it has been around less long than say, studies of how people make decisions in organizations. This was because, traditionally, emotions are something that are to be stamped out, eliminated and altogether disregarded in the interest of organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Today, however, psychologists recognize that emotions – and being emotionally intelligent, are important influences on how organizations perform. In one study, the ability to recognize emotions was found to influence employee income. Specifically, when employees had higher levels of emotion recognition ability, they were more skilled politically and interpersonally, which in turn enhanced their ability to navigate the social environment of their workplaces . More generally, being emotionally intelligent is also beneficial in helping employees cope with stress and as a buffer against experiencing negative health outcomes. One study of service workers showed that employees high on emotionally intelligence were less likely to develop depressive symptoms in contrast with those low on emotional intelligence .
Emotional intelligence is an ability that can be developed. The ability consists of four sub-skills – understanding your emotions, perceiving others’ emotions, managing your emotions, and using your emotions for personal and professional success. Are you aware of what sets you off at the work environment? Recognizing triggers for your emotions at work is one way to cultivate self-awareness for emotions in your workplace. Paying attention to and being perceptive of others emotions might help increase your sensitivity to others’ emotions. Cultivating effective emotion regulation skills can also help soothe frayed tempers and prevent conflicts from escalating into personal attacks . Using emotions to guide, inspire and counsel others falls within the fourth – and arguably most challenging subskill. Collectively, however, such skills will become increasingly necessary as we recognize how emotions effectively bonds, or breaks workplace dynamics.