Emotional Intensive at Work

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Emotional Intensive at Work


Here are some rules to live by, at least for me.

In organizational living, always stop negative emotional intensity.  Positive emotional intensity is a good thing, like creativity, excitement, lively discussion and problem-solving.

Always stop negative emotional intensity by:

  • Keeping calm (emotions tend to match each other—negative begets more negative, freaking out creates more freaking out).
  • Ask/tell the person to stop.
  • Take a time out.
  • Put your hand up in the stop sign nonverbal.

Once you have confronted the behavior, fill in the vacuum with something positive or calming.

Supervising adults and raising children is very similar, you just can’t keep reminding your employees of this—eventually, they take offence.  So, I’ll only say this one time, but, a lot of supervision and child rearing is about:

  • Holding people accountable;
  • Teaching them right from wrong;
  • Explaining and demonstrating the appropriate expression of emotion;
  • Helping with problem-solving;
  • Working through decision-making;
  • Giving positive recognition.

One happens in the home and the other is taught one more time in the workplace.  Sometimes, people don’t learn at home how to act in the world.  So, as a supervisor, when you run into this, you have to “parent” the person without becoming their parent.  I think I’m over my limit.

As children, people learn to use emotional intensity to keep you from confronting them—they’ll get upset, they’ll storm away or they’ll yell and scream.

You have to know how to control it, how to manage it, how to put a stop to it.

People will make snide and off-handed comments because they have learned that it throws people off guard and they don’t know how to react.  You need to react, but keep it simple.  “That sounded like a snide remark, was it?”  Nine times out of ten, the person will say, “No, it wasn’t a snide remark.”  You just simply say, “Oh, OK.  I was just checking.”

Don’t confront it further.  Don’t call them a liar.  Just let it go.  And when they do it again, simply confront it again.  I guarantee you that after 3 or 4 times of you asking if their comment was snide, they will stop making the comment.

Other statements you can make are, “What’d you mean by that?”  “That sounded like a put down, was it?”

Some facts to remember about adults:

  • They don’t like admitting mistakes—so don’t make them—admit mistakes that is. Everyone makes mistakes.
  • They are sensitive to criticism, so be sensitive when you are giving it.
  • They are easily embarrassed in public.
  • They get defensive when challenged by authority.

When you are trying to lead people, remember:

  • Inconsistency from the leader undermines people’s confidence in themselves. You are inseparably connected to your people.
  • Ignoring people hurts their pride. It is worse than being reprimanded.  With a reprimand, at least you know how the boss feels.
  • Work from success. The best way to train and develop someone is to build confidence.  Gallup has learned this through their strength based organizations.
  • Try to end at least 80 -90% of your conversations on a good note. If you can’t, go back to the beginning, you are missing something.
  • Often, taking responsibility is a learned response. Know how to teach it.
  • One way to end up with an unruly employee is to never say no. However, use no sparingly.  Once you say no, stay no.  But, don’t be unreasonable.  Do I need to say that again?
  • When you give a command, speak with authority. If you can’t balance authority and respect for others by the way you handle yourself and your tone of voice, leadership is not for you.  Go back to swinging a hammer.

There it is.  It isn’t the solution to every emotional situation at work, but it will help with many of them.