Every office has at least one employee who wears their heart on their sleeve. This can be great for employee morale when the individual is exuberantly proclaiming their love for their job, or a toxic tidal wave of disruption when they are displeased.
Negative emotions can quickly affect creativity and productivity, and it is important that effective leaders actively work to manage the emotional responses of their workforce, including themselves.
Emotional responses are part of an innate biological process that induces a flood of hormones into the system. Despite most individuals picturing overly emotional employees as female, men are just as susceptible to emotional responses at work.
Since this process takes place outside of conscious control, it is important that employees are provided appropriate outlets through which to express their emotions.
Effective leaders remain focused on the mental and physical health of their employees, and should maintain an open door policy. It is critical that leaders clearly communicate their compassion for their employees and encourage them to share their concerns.
Many individuals require an opportunity to compose themselves before they are able to discuss their emotional responses, and should be allowed to approach their manager or HR representative when they are ready.
Individuals typically seek solitude to process their emotions, and more often than not the only place available in the workplace is the restroom. Turning an extra supply closet or small office into a dedicated “relaxation space” is an excellent and inexpensive way to empower employees to regain control of their emotional responses when the need arises.
This space should include soft lighting, soothing blue walls, and serine artwork of nature scenes, and equipped with comfortable seating and a locking door for privacy.
Once leaders have established a safe and proactive method for employees to process their emotional responses, they must turn to solving the source of the stress. The most common negative emotions at work are frustration, worry, dislike, and anger, and at work these typically have predictable and fixable causes.
Frustrations and worries often occur when an employee feels that their work demands are excessive. Tight deadlines, requested or required overtime, and projects where the worker is outside of their realm of expertise often leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and concerned that their work will be seen as inadequate.
These feelings may be solved easily by extending deadlines or adding individuals with the appropriate expertise to the work team.
Feelings of dislike and anger, as well as a degree of frustration, may occur when two individuals in the office simply do not work well together. In these situations, leaders should meet with each individual separately to discuss their feelings, and then moderate discussions between the two parties to come up with a workable solution allowing everyone to experience a happy work environment.
This may be as simple as requesting an employee to work on a problematic behaviour, or assigning the individuals to separate work groups where they have minimal interaction with each other as they go about their day.
Ultimately, it is the job of an effective leader to engage in emotional management and to step in before feelings become overwhelming for the employee. Recognising the early signs of negative emotions in an employee and proactively working to improve their mood and work situation before the individual reaches the point of “meltdown” can help to keep the entire office engaged and productive.