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Control your emotions at work
Neelima Chimnani
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January 16, 2007

Wait for 48 hours before reacting to an insult.

Sounds easy, right. But have you ever tried doing it?

We think of ourselves as balanced individuals. But our lifestyle ensures that all our waking hours are occupied, at home and at work. This often makes us feel overwhelmed. It leads to reactions that are not the wisest, even to very ordinary situations. Reactions that are not appropriate, especially at work.

Ever wanted to talk back to your superior at work? There is a one hundred per cent chance it will backfire. Try it. On second thoughts, don't!

Rather than focusing only on controlling your reactions, you must go behind the scenes and get to the root cause of your impulsive behaviour. Most of the time, this kind of behaviour results from stress.

Let us understand from psychology experts and Human Resource managers why this happens:

According to clinical psychologist Prachi Vaish -- stress, beyond a certain level, induces what is known as 'emotional volatility'. In this process, you tend to feel on top of the world and extremely positive on one day and terrible on other days. When you are down, you tend to lose patience and react to unpleasant situations with extreme annoyance. Such reactions are a manifestation of deep-seated and prolonged stress situations at work or in your personal life.

In the first part -- of this two part series on how to not let your emotions get the better of you -- we talk about situations at work that bring on negative emotions and the steps that can be taken to avoid succumbing to pressure.

Excessive workload

In most companies, the management feels their departments are adequately staffed. While most employees feel the  opposite. When the employees find themselves multitasking and working long hours, sometimes late into the nights, the fatigue gives way to irritability.

Says Mohan Karmalkar, a 37-year-old project manager with a telecom company in Mumbai, "My job involves 12 to 14 hours of work daily and the resultant pressure sometimes becomes difficult to handle. I tend to snap at colleagues and team members when they don't comprehend what I am getting at."

Personal frustrations

The ups and downs you face in your personal life occupy your mind in some small or big way, even when you're at work. This disturbs the balance between personal and professional life.

"Concentrating on work became close to impossible when I was undergoing problems in my marriage," says 31-year-old Preeti Vazdi, a Bangalore-based graphic designer.

"The very fact that we could be heading towards a divorce made it impossible for me to work, at times. I used to feel like crying all the time. All the pent up frustration started showing up in the form of extreme reactions towards peers, seniors and juniors," she adds.

Other factors

According to Puja Shah, HR manager with a media company, an extreme gender specific situation at work can be sexual harassment, which makes it difficult for a woman to handle everyday work, especially if she needs the job.

"Ethical malpractice in the company, too, can be a stress-generating factor for an employee," she adds. More so in the interim period when a person is trying to get another job elsewhere.

Some other factors, according to Puja, are as follows

All of these situations cause stress, sometimes for long periods, which manifests in the form of a sullen or rude approach to interactions with other people.

How to curb emotional volatility at work

Preventing negative reactions to situations is in your own hands. If you don't control your emotions, they will control you. Some effective methods of reducing volatile behaviour:

~Use weekends to get away and relax

Utilise your weekends to travel to even nearby holiday spots. Weekends are not just meant to pay bills, run pending errands, or do groceries. 

I am not much of a traveller and generally spend my weekends finishing house-related work or tending to my personal accounts but I was dragged to Goa by a bunch of mad friends over a long weekend. I had never imagined the kind of isolation the trip provided from my regular lifestyle. I came back totally rejuvenated.

Try a change of place. And trust me, it really works.

~Share work problems with your partner/spouse

If you have a working spouse, he/she would understand the problems you are facing at work instantly. Even if your partner doesn't work, he/she will have a fair understanding of your mindset and what bothers you and for what reason.

Spouses are generally good confidants/confidantes. Giving vent by talking is a safety valve and it will prevent you from complaing  about one colleague to another.

~Build your own support system

Build a rapport with someone you are comfortable with at office. Creating healthy friendships helps to de-stress during breaks. This brings emotional stability and the vigour to get back to work.

It also helps to understand the organisation culture better since you share work-related experiences with a colleague.


Communicate with your boss and clarify your role. Help your boss to help you. It is a far better option than keeping it within and establishing a negative image about yourself.

~Delay your reaction

Don't let what someone says to you encourage the wrong reaction. The importance of think before you speak cannot be overemphasised. A measured reaction also ensures that you speak calmly when you do speak.

You should choose your words carefully when you speak, ensuring that you don't hurt the sentiments of the person opposite you -- you can later analyse the situation and find the solutions to what has troubled you.

~Time management

Don't work long, work smart. Use productivity tools to speeden your work. More available time can help you stay relaxed.

"I have been taking yoga classes, and the pranayam takes me to a relaxed state of mind in the morning itself, and I am better equipped to take on the day," says Rajat Verma, 35 and a finance manager with a leading cement company in Delhi.

~Work on your PR skills

It is not just important to work hard. It is also important to manage your relations at work better. If you succeed in creating positive vibes at work -- where you spend virtually all your waking hours -- you will find your efficiency increased manifold.


Keep your tasks streamlined and your desk organised. Knowing exactly what is completed and what is stored where may seem unimportant, but it can control temperamental reactions.

~Upgrade your skills

Invest your time in learning new things at work. Learning new software will ensure you are with the times, and will provide a feeling of increased competence.

~Destress at work

Many companies nowadays provide facilities to their employees like game rooms, gyms, etc. Ms Vaish says, "Instead of thinking that valuable work time will be lost in engaging in such activities, one should indulge. Physical exercises are cathartic media and help to relieve stress."

"So, when the person comes back to his desk, he is fresh and uses half the time to finish the same work," she adds.

Last word 

Keeping a rein on your emotions while at work goes a long way in achieving healthier relations. It will also bring  professional growth.

Tomorrow: Part II Emotional stability in your personal life

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