5 Negative Workplace Emotions and Their Effects on Us

How to deal with negative emotions at work

Posted Mar 31, 2016

We spend a large part of our lives at work, and careers can be both a source of positive emotions (e.g., happiness, feelings of accomplishment and belonging, etc.), and a source of negative emotions and stress.  Here are 5 common workplace emotions and strategies to manage them.

Anger Workplace anger can result from frustration, interpersonal conflicts with bosses or coworkers, and unfair treatment.  Anger at work can lead to irrational behavior, such as explosive outbursts, or threatening to, or actually quitting one’s job.  One key for managing workplace anger is to remove yourself from the situation and letting your anger subside.  Then, when calmer, you can take more rational steps in dealing with the situation that made you angry in the first place.

Envy It is very common to envy the accomplishments and rewards given to fellow coworkers.  Equity theory says that we are all motivated by a sense of fairness/equity, and that this can spur us to work harder so that we also can earn those rewards, like pay raises and promotions.  Unfortunately, workplace rewards aren’t always distributed fairly, and this can lead to negative emotional reactions, including envy.  The key in dealing with envy is to analyze the situation and make sure that when you are comparing yourself to others that you are using the right “comparison others.”  For example, you can’t compare yourself directly to someone with more experience, education, or service time. 

Fear It’s disconcerting to think that fear would be common in the workplace, but risk of losing a job can cause fear and uncertainty.  Keeping your resume up-to-date, and exploring other employment possibilities may help keep fear at bay. A punitive supervisor or workplace bully, can also cause fear and high levels of distress in the workplace.  Here are some tips on dealing with workplace bullies.

Guilt If we feel guilty because of an unfinished assignment, or because we have somehow offended a colleague, guilt can actually be a positive, motivating force in the workplace.  The best way to eliminate guilt is to meet (or exceed) your demands, and take steps to patch up interpersonal conflicts in the workplace.

Helplessness.  A sense of helplessness at work, or a sense of anxiety, is a warning sign that should not be ignored.  A sense of helplessness or hopelessness can signal that you are concerned about your career and where it is going, or t could be a sign of depression.  In any case, don’t ignore these feelings if they persist.  Seek counseling – either to help with managing your feelings, or to help you find a more fulfilling job or career.

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