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How to Cope with Emotions in the Workplace


During a job interview, you’re taught over and over again to do certain things: Wear professional clothes, don’t wear too much make up, don’t slouch, make direct eye contact, enunciate, have a firm handshake, etc.

Work behavior, however, appears to be more relationship-based. You’ve likely heard professional advice like: don’t talk back to a superior, don’t gossip about other co-workers, listen to constructive criticism, be presentable, be sociable and let us not forget, smile – but what happens when you just can’t smile?

Forced Smile at Work
© Flickr User Jason Rogers

Better yet, what happens when you have trouble controlling your emotions? You might laugh unexpectedly (or inappropriately), start swearing up a storm from anger or cry out of frustration. Sadly, it happens to the best of us.

Humans, by nature, have different physical and emotional thresholds. When most people get visibly upset or angry, they generally can’t help it. When a feeling is strong enough, one can only express it in the most uninhibited way possible.

As an adult in the professional world, however, you have to make a valiant attempt to keep your composure. After all, you have work to get done! This isn’t to say that you should feel ashamed for feeling what you do. Again, you’re human – but those on the outside looking in (e.g. your clients or colleagues) might not be as understanding. Here are tips that can help to keep yourself calm on the job:

Stuck In a Meeting? Work on Your Breathing

This isn’t always the case, but there might be times where you’ll be stuck in the same room for an undetermined amount of time with a co-worker you truly can’t stand. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. Hypothetically, let’s say that person says something that makes your blood boil. You’re clenching your fists, grinding your teeth and hoping that you don’t just punch them in the throat.

First and foremost, that teeth grinding and fist clenching isn’t getting you anywhere. You’re likely just making yourself angrier and that means you’ve just lost sight of the meeting’s objective. Since you already can’t focus on work, try to focus on something positive like you’re breathing… and only your breathing. I’m not saying that you should zone out during meetings, but it’s a heck of a lot better than dwelling on an issue, am I right? Breathe and try to lower your heart rate.

Secluded Spots are Your Friend

If that meeting has ended and you’re still feeling on-edge, there’s nothing wrong with hiding out in a secluded spot when you have a free moment… just to get away from all the visual and aural noise. Run to a bathroom stall, book a conference room, or sit in the stairway. Sit down (maybe lean your head against the wall), take some deep breaths and close your eyes. No one is watching. If you need to cry, let it all out. If you need to rant aloud (to yourself), do it. This is your time.

Secluded Spot
© Flickr User PhotoAtelier

What If It Didn’t Work?

So let’s say you end up lashing out at someone or crying from stress or frustration even after your attempts to calm down. What do you do now? In my experience, I’ve found that, at this point, it’s helpful to open and honest. Having generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks sometimes show up out of the blue… and this can seem scary for everyone. Instead of letting co-workers play guessing games about what’s going on, it’s easier to be upfront. While some clients won’t understand, it’s your co-workers that you work with on an everyday basis… and they’re just as human as you are. You might even get some work issues solved along the way!

If your emotions become a significant problem, you might consider seeking the help of a therapist. There are many resources and hotlines out there for folks for need someone to talk to. And naturally, if there’s a person causing you grief at work, don’t hesitate to pay HR a visit to see how they can help.

In Summary

Remaining professional and productive when you’re under the weather is difficult. When releasing such strong emotions is so natural, it can seem so painful and unnatural to bottle them up. There’s a fine line between what is considered appropriate behavior and not appropriate when it comes to emotions. The intent to do good or overcome obstacles, however, will often make or break your situation. Try not to let emotions overtake you… and if they do, apologize. At least you can’t say you didn’t try!

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About the Blogger: Felicia Savage is a Digital Media Marketing Associate at PERQ, a marketing technology and promotions company based in Indianapolis. When she blogging and researching content, Felicia enjoys drawing, watching cartoons and looking up stupid cat videos, Check out or follow her on Twitter (@KittyHasFleaz.) to learn more about her!


Tue, September 9 2014 » Self Development, Stress and Mindfullness, Success Consciousness

2 Responses

  1. robbyslaughter September 22 2014 @ 7:06 pm

    I love this post! You should be yourself at work, but also, you shouldn't be yourself at work.

    We're required to be productive and also emotionally aware, but if we have strong emotions that can be damaging to our careers.

    Lots to think about. Thanks for writing, Felicia!

  2. Anne October 15 2014 @ 11:23 am


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