Tapping into Emotional Intelligence at Work

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Here are some simple steps to you can follow to get your work-life back into balance, reduce stress, and resolve conflict. By connecting with your emotions at work, you’ll be better equipped to identify, handle, and avoid difficult situations before they escalate.

Exploring situations that bring out your best at work

You may notice that you’re happier at work at certain times, and at other times you’re annoyed or frustrated. Pay attention to these feelings or moods. By identifying them, you can start to determine a pattern so that you can increase the amount of time you’re happy and reduce the occurrence of negative emotions.

Keep a diary of your feelings at work.
Keep a diary of your feelings at work.

Stay on top of your feelings at work by keeping a feelings diary. Get a small notebook and use one page for each day. Just follow these steps:

  1. On each line, down the left margin, write the times of the day, in one-hour increments.

    For example, if your workday starts at 9 a.m., write 9, 10, 11, and so on.

  2. During the day, at the top of each hour, record your current feeling next to the time.

    For example, you might write happy, sad, frustrated, or indifferent.

  3. 3Next to your feeling, record the most recent event that occurred.

    Write down an event such as sent an e-mail to Bill, talked to Sam, or on the phone with Fran.

  4. Once a week, sit down with your notebook and go down the feelings column, marking each feeling as positive (+), negative (–), or neutral (0).

  5. Work your way down the negative feelings, one at a time. Note the situations that led to the negative feelings. Start to look for patterns.

    Does dealing with certain people always trigger a negative response? What about doing certain kinds of things at work? See if you can come up with two or three things that seem to cause the most negativity for you.

  6. Go through all the positive items that you’ve checked.

    Look for patterns in the situations. Are there certain people or kinds of work that make you feel good over the course of a day? Do you notice that you feel more confident, happy, or generally positive at certain times of the day or when you’re doing tasks that you excel in?

  7. Come up with ways that you can increase the number and quality of the good situations and decrease the frequency of the negative ones.

    What can you do to get more out of your interactions with people? Can you find networking opportunities that can help you further your career? Can you increase sales with your people skills? You may want to explore how your social skills can lead to greater work happiness and success. Then, formulate a plan to build your social skills to their full potential.

  8. For the negative patterns, investigate whether they’re related to a particular hassle or anxiety.

    The moment you recognize that you’re feeling aggravated at work, you can begin to identify why you’re feeling that way. More likely than not, something small is bothering you. Studies at work have shown that you’re more affected by the little hassles and frustrations, over the long term, than by a major positive event. If you perceive many hassles over the day or week, these hassles erode your feelings about your work or the organization.

    What can you do about hassles? Follow these steps:

    1. Identify the hassles you experience at work, both big and small.

    2. Determine how each hassle prevents or impedes you from getting your job done.

    3. Brainstorm solutions about to how you can remove or reduce each hassle. Record these in your notebook.

      Come up with a few ideas for each hassle.

    4. Meet with your supervisor to discuss the hassles that you’re facing and your suggested solutions.

      Let your supervisor know that you want to be as efficient as you can during your workday — you want to get the most bang for your buck at the end of the day.

  9. Try to use the patterns to identify any areas of weakness that you may need to address.

    Your negative emotions at work should provide a signal for you that something may need to be changed. By analyzing the situation, you can then determine the nature of that change. Sometimes, you need to make only minor alterations. Other times, you may need radical surgery, meaning major change to your work.

Take a good look at your strengths. Try to determine whether you’re maximizing your strong areas. You may be able to use your strengths at work in ways that you haven’t considered yet. You may have a flair for public relations, sales, training, or any number of areas that require good interpersonal skills.

If your strengths are more technology oriented (your best times at work are when you use the computer), you might want to move towards research, programming, database management, or any number of more technically oriented jobs. Do you enjoy helping others with their computer questions? Training or technical support may be logical directions.

Having more control over workflow yet getting the same amount of work done (or, as often happens, accomplishing even more work) benefits everyone. If you have the mood that’s most productive for your work, you feel like you’re in control of your job, instead of the job controlling you. Feeling that sense of control improves your attitude towards the job, the workplace, and the organization as a whole. If you know that your supervisors and top management are really interested in helping you do your best work, then you’re more motivated to perform.


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