What are the five steps to finding an emotional balance in the workplace? I'll tell you. But first, let's dive into where we, as employees, are currently situated in the workplace. The emergence of the millennial generation in the contemporary workforce has led to a greater need for companies to emphasize an employee-centric workplace. The importance of organizations understanding the expectations of an employee is greater than ever before, leading to stronger ties between corporate and private life. This phenomenon is not just limited to human interactions. With the surge of technology over the past ten years, the lines between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ have become even more blurred. From BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) programs to securing laptops for ‘work from home’ opportunities, the ties between employer and employee have become intertwined. Consequently, it has become harder to bottle up what could be perceived as negative emotions in the workplace. Who hasn’t wanted to throw their computer out a window after a terrible meeting?
Because believe me, we’ve all been there. Whether it’s being passed over for a well-deserved promotion, a document closing unexpectedly or what seems like everything in your day is going wrong – we get emotional at work. And although people have been running into the bathroom stall to have a good cry for generations, the current state of the workforce has introduced a new landscape for emotional expression. On the contrary to cultural norms, I believe that fully experiencing your emotions and acting proactively because of them, will lead to a more productive and successful career.
Anne Kreamer, author of the novel It’s Always Personal, says, “By denying the range of emotional expressiveness intrinsic and appropriate to the workplace, we find ourselves at a loss for how to handle this brave new boundary-less world.” In my experience, being able to express all emotions within an office environment directly reflects the people that work within a company and creates a culture that makes it a great place to work. The idea of positive corporate culture is more prominent than ever before because we are finally able to correlate it to organizational success.
Regardless of the type of industry, the size of the organization or the culture already in place, the volatile nature of businesses will eventually present itself, leading to ups and downs in every workplace. Finding the emotional balance and practice that is best for your productivity is often difficult but nonetheless key to adapting to any situation and navigating towards your idea of successful career. Here are five steps I use when approaching a situation that seems to take my breath away:
Learn to Greet Your Emotions
At the heart of any mindfulness practice is the ability to become “witness” to your own emotions. Being able to recognize an emotion that is coming up and identify it before reacting is one of the first steps in healthy emotional digestion. Greeting these emotions without judgement or attaching to the idea that they somehow represent the entirety of YOU, starts with awareness of exactly how you are feeling and how you physically react. Starting with the simple idea of “Oh, that’s frustration,” after clenching your jaw or “Hello, anxiety” after biting your nails, will bring familiarity to your triggers. Because once you have the power to take a step back from those initial reactions to your true emotional state, you will be able to fully process and continue with a controlled, thoughtful next step.
Get to Your ‘Why’ Reasons
After I hold up the accurate emotional flag (the true emotion I am seeking to exhibit in a situation) without responding immediately with my default reaction, I always ask myself…why? Getting to your “why” reason will help you get to the true internal issue that prompted a reaction. Being inquisitive until you get to your truth, not blaming external sources will help you proactively face insecurities and build a foundation around those feelings. One of my greatest yoga and mindfulness teachers, Jean Mazzei, taught me this concept and suggested I start by practicing through a journaling exercise. I begin these sessions by asking myself questions like “why did I have want to cry after this?” or “why did this situation trigger XYZ?” and keep asking why to the prior answer in the most open and honest fashion. I get to my Why Reasons quickly and most of the time come to the realization that it wasn’t external factors like co-workers, deadlines or my commute that were really bothering me. Instead, these intense emotions come from within, only now I deal with them knowing I need to take responsibility for only what I can control.
Know Your Limits
As stated earlier, it’s almost impossible not to have emotional ties to your work. Similar to a major project you have championed for a long time, work becomes a part of you. When you’re coming in early or staying late every night, it’s an individual’s passion that gets them across the goal line. One of the best things about getting to your Why Reason, is learning what really motivates you, the driving factor behind why you make the choices you do, and finding out what your personal limits are. Being able to effectively draw a line in the sand and create healthy boundaries around your work is key to finding emotional balance. Just because you may be practicing empathy and not being reactive, doesn’t mean you want to constantly be putting yourself in a situation that gets you upset or angry. Knowing what your limits are and sticking to them will show you how far you are willing to go and help you better sustain a positive mindset in all aspects of your role.
Harness Your Empathetic Engagement
Brene Brown, researcher and storyteller, said it best, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
At the end of each day, what matters is what you made of it. “Emotion,” as defined by Webster’s dictionary is “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.” The ability to effectively channel overwhelming negative or positive emotions to more productively react to your circumstances, mood and relationships at work will only better your effectiveness within your role. Encouraging yourself and others to create a culture of enthusiastic people (that don’t always have perfect days!) will ultimately drive positive values that align with your organization. I constantly make mistakes and wish I would have acted differently, but by practicing these steps, I am able to forgive myself and learn what I can do better, one day at a time.
For some tips on how to cultivate mindfulness at work, check out my previous blog post here.