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Workplace negativity: How to minimise the damage

/ Dec 19, 2012 8:46AM / Print / ()

Workplace negativity: How to minimise the damage

There is a role for negative emotions at work, especially in the workplace. The trick is to learn how to control them and to minimize any damage they may do.

Because they can do damage. We all have a colleague who flies off the handle at the smallest thing, leaving him branded difficult to deal with and hard to manage. Or the woman in sales who is a little frenetic, and you never quite know what is going to come at you, or when. Or the marketing manager who is so emotional, she has a temper tantrum one minute, cries the next, and is your best friend the minute after. None of these people are easy to deal with, and their behaviours are all career limiting to some degree. Not where you want to be.

In my previous post we explored how to enhance positive emotions at work. So how do we minimise the negative ones? Those nasties that turn up during your workday? Try the below.

Don't walk – run
Absolutely number one on the list for dealing with negative emotions at work is to leave the situation and bide your time. Don't make decisions or have confrontations when you are angry, upset or just outright pissed off – don't worry, it happens to the best of us. We have all had times when our boss did something we thought was totally unprofessional, like undermining us in a meeting, or giving credit to someone else for our hard work. Yep, I have been there and wanted to absolutely strangle the guy (or just kick his ass – and you thought I was so nice). You may have had feelings of wanting to tell him (or her) what you really think of them, or just plain quit.

But you need to pause here, breathe and get a grip. Walking away, getting a coffee, sleeping on it, and getting some perspective, are all required in this situation. When we are in the throes of a downward spiral caused by negative emotions, our brain literally contracts. We cannot think clearly, as we know from looking at the Broaden and Build theory.

So don't do anything rash or, I promise you, you will regret it later, when your brain (and hormones) have returned to their normal charming state. Time gives us perspective, and then you can deal with the situation in a calm and rational way.

Maintain your respect
You don't have to agree with the other person's position, to show respect for their emotional state. Now this is hard when there is really bad behaviour going on, and I would revert to walking away, if that is the case. But don't disparage the other person for having a different emotion from you; and try to be empathetic whenever possible.

Get to the why
Many times when we experience a negative emotion, it is because the situation or conversation has triggered something in us, and caused some form of resistance. If you try and ignore this emotion, it will keep rising up like a pimple that just won't go away (how rude). Sit with the emotion and get to the bottom of why this situation was such an issue for you – once you have calmed down of course, and have some space to do so. Try to get in touch with the root of the resistance, and you will help to distil the negative emotional response.

So there you have it. As I wrote in my previous post, minding your emotions at work is about a lot more than just learning not to cry in the office. Understanding the science and application of the positive, how to get more of it in your day, and what to do with the negative gremlins when they appear, are keys to the successful career you are working so hard to create. So think about it, get familiar with the positive emotions on the list, and look for as many opportunities as possible to elicit them in your day, and in others'. Your career will thank you for it.

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