How to Keep Emotions From Damaging Your Career

How to Keep Emotions From Damaging Your Career

There are moments and stages in our careers when we must take some time to ourselves. We must do some introspection to avoid letting emotions damage our career.

Whether that time involves a quick minute or days and weeks to reflect, the need to take a beat and not give in to a quick knee-jerk emotional response is necessary.

Given that, here is some solid advice for any professional, but especially those at more senior levels.  

Stay Vulcan! Decision-making should be only logical

While there is an expectation for quick, decisive action when leading at upper levels in the corporate structure, there's a difference between making a thoughtful decision based on facts with a calm demeanor vs. rushing in with a response that may be generated by a reaction to the moment and the emotions at hand.

It can be hard to take that time when situations or feelings are becoming heated.  However, knee-jerk emotional responses can cause more damage than they’re worth.

This is especially true when the decision made puts an organization or a company on a path that may not be the best potential option.  When emotions run high, it takes effort to pause and insert logic and rationality into the situation.

It’s definitely not easy, but it has a much better payoff in the long run.

Ways to prevent poor, emotional decision-making

There are ways to give yourself that moment, as well as ways to keep yourself from forcing others into an emotional response.  

1. Recognize that the situation is becoming emotional

Identify the signs of a feelings-based conflict rather than a rational debate. Watch for angry or strident vocal tones, hunched shoulders, closed-off and defensive body language, finger-pointing, assigning blame, angry facial expressions, or conversations being cut off repeatedly.

2. Call out that things are becoming emotional

Back yourself away from the emotional precipice, and try to defuse the situation.  Stop the debate and bring the current state of conversation to light, which can sometimes cause people to evaluate their stance and how they're being perceived.  

Another tactic is to force a break to the discussion, then calmly attempt to factually and emotionlessly articulate the positions of both sides, recognizing the positive points of all positions being expressed.  

3. Take a timeout, if possible

Break for a few minutes, and give people, including yourself, the opportunity to breathe, take a step back and re-engage in a calmer, more rational manner.  In essence, "allow cooler heads to prevail."

4. Acknowledge frustration and deliver the news with a calm demeanor

If delivering news or information that you know can potentially generate an emotional response worries you, deliver the content in a calm manner.

Then, acknowledge that it's a lot to take in. Acknowledge that you are open to questions and discussion. You are happy to allow the recipient(s) time to digest it, including scheduling follow-up time later to discuss.

Why this is important for your career

Each time you do it, it becomes more of a positive habit and less of a struggle.  The benefits will positively impact your work, your perception among others at work and even your personal life.  

There is a considerable upside to being a thoughtful leader, including gaining a reputation for being open and collaborative.  However, there is a distinct difference between being able to think things through and being indecisive.  

Finally, just be sure not to cross that line into wishy-washyness by overcompensating and taking everyone else's thoughts into account to the point that it clouds your ability to put your own, your organization's and your company's needs above others'.

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