We’ve all experienced emotional outbursts in the workplace. Perhaps your outbursts have been relatively subtle. You’ve shed a tear in front of your boss or cursed at a coworker for revealing the events that unfolded in the season finale of Game of Thrones. Perhaps, though, your outbursts have been more intense. You’ve erupted in a full-blown tantrum in front of the CEO or verbally assaulted a marquee customer.
Our emotional outbreaks are partially propelled by biology. In fact, women, for example, are more susceptible to bursting into tears (as they exhibit higher levels of prolactin, a hormone related to crying, and exhibit shorter and shallower tear ducts as compared to their male counterparts). Research conducted by Anne Kreamer, former creative director of Nickelodeon, found that, in a given year, 41% of women admitted to crying at work compared to a mere 9% of men.
Much of your ability to control your emotions is, however, in your own control (despite the severity of your addiction to Game of Thrones). Managing your emotions is one of the most effective means of advancing your career trajectory and establishing a stronger executive presence.
1. Label your emotions
Labeling is a critical first step in managing your emotions. Highly effective executives are able to differentiate between feelings of happiness, sadness, wrath, guilt, frustration, etc.
Unfortunately, many executives suffer from alexithymia, an inability to accurately label and
express their emotions. A compelling 2014 study published in Cognition and Emotion found that our ability to label our emotions helps us avoid outbursts in the future.
Your emotions are powerful data points. Management expert Peter Drucker’s maxim, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” undeniably rings true in this context.
2. Don’t suppress your emotions
In attempts to ward off emotional outbursts, many high-profile executives attempt to suppress their emotions. Regrettably, this tactic tends to backfire. A 2014 study published in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience found that attempts to impede, ignore, or push emotions aside consume cognitive resources. Individuals who suppress their emotions have been found to be less effective at completing tasks, solving problems, and forging interpersonal relationships. Instead of suppressing your emotions, take a few deep breaths, find a quiet and private place to vent, regroup, and allocate time to reflect on the situation.
3. Pay attention to your body language
The most effective executives pay close attention to their body language as a means of
proactively managing their emotions. Humans experience emotions physically. Different
hormones are released into the bloodstream in response to different emotions and elicit varied physical sensations. Our heartbeat escalates, our palms grow sweaty, we experience shortness of breath. The more proficient you are at reading your body language, the more adept you’ll be at diagnosing and diffusing negative emotions in their early stages.
We all become emotional at work. An executive coach can prove enormously valuable in helping you develop the wherewithal to diagnose, manage, and regulate your emotions. High levels of emotional intelligence are essential in propelling your personal and professional growth.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at