A Look at Negative Emotions in the Workplace
Our work and the workplace can be sources of great joy and achievement for us. On the flip side, they can also be a battleground for dissatisfaction and a range of negative emotions. These emotions can be doubly troubling at work as we try to manage our reactions in front of professional colleagues and our boss. Failing to do so can result in our job being on the line and that is something we all want to avoid!
Below I’ve taken five of the most common negative emotions that crop up at work and what they might be signalling:
Anger at work can arise for several different reasons. You might be frustrated with a slack colleague, a tyrannical boss, cutbacks, or unfair treatment. Of all the negative emotions, anger is probably the one you most want to keep in check in the workplace. If you feel the familiarity of anger rising at work, remember to respond and not react. Remove yourself from the scenario by taking a walk and getting some fresh air. Use mindfulness to bring your body and mind back to a state of calm and approach the issue rationally.
In uncertain times fear can come up at work for a few reasons. You might be worried about redundancy or job security. Or you might feel fear and anxiety because of a toxic boss or colleague. Your fear is telling you that you do not feel safe. Problem-solve what is causing your fear and what steps you need to take care to create positive change. If you’re worried about job security, making sure you update your CV and taking a course to update your skills, can make you feel positive and in control of your scenario. When it comes to a toxic colleague or boss, seek help. Speak to a trusted colleague, trusted friend, or a professional to get advice.
Guilt is a tricky one. Maybe you took a sick day when you should not have or blamed a colleague for something you did or neglected to do. Guilt is your moral compass telling you something is awry. You cannot go back and change past behaviours or actions but you can pay attention when the emotion arises and seek to make changes.
Is there one particular colleague who always seems to get the praise? Who may have pipped you for that promotion, pay rise, or securing a big client? Jealousy can crop up at work when we feel someone is achieving the goals we want to achieve ourselves but may be having difficulty in doing so. It’s important not to let this become malicious jealousy and steer clear of gossip however tempting it may be. Rather use your envy to motivate you to achieve your goals. Instead of becoming bitter, approach the colleague for advice on how you might be able to improve too. Seek their help and you could form an alliance that reaps benefits, instead of a feud that benefits no one.
Feeling disinterested in your work role or tasks is a sign that this needs to be explored. If you are feeling disengaged from your job and colleagues, it could be a sign that it is time to move on or seek new challenges. No one likes being bored and this could be your passive-aggressive way of sticking your heels in rather than accepting change as needed. If this sense of apathy is spreading into other areas of your life, it could be a sign of depression, so be sure to seek professional support if you’re finding it hard to feel motivated about life. Just as negative emotions outside of work are a sign that something needs to change, the same is true when they occur at work. Explore the feeling proactively and see where it leads you.
A Take-Home Message
If there is one thing I want you to take away from reading this article, it is the compassion piece for your full capacity to experience emotions as a human being. Negative emotions are an extremely important part of our existence. Be open to them, embrace their part in your life, and learn to incorporate them in proactive ways.
If you remember to respond rather than react, I’m confident you’ll find new ways of approaching these emotions with authenticity and positivity. I would love to hear your thoughts and journey around handling negative emotions. Please feel free to e-mail me with your comments here.