When emotions at work start affecting others

Last Updated : 20 December 2022, 00:18 IST
Last Updated : 20 December 2022, 00:18 IST

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Emotional well-being is not just the absence of mental illnesses but a condition where an individual’s emotional state contributes to intrapersonal invigoration and interpersonal symbiosis. It is not about terminating or restoring emotions but accepting the beauty in every emotion, be it joy or sadness.

Joy, sadness, anxiety, surprise, fear and anger—all human emotions have their own importance. They cannot be segregated as positive or negative. As a human or professional, it is all right to be sad or angry for a while. However, one must record the frequency of emotions visiting or revisiting in their daily life. Besides, the workplace is a nexus of emotional transactions between colleagues. The quality of these emotions influences workplace relationships.

Repressing emotions

American Psychological Association (APA) defines repression as a defence mechanism wherein an individual suppresses certain emotions due to the fear of social persecution. Since the evolution of human society, people have been conditioned to withhold their emotions.

However, we never thought that these repressed emotions could cause other emotional problems. Behavioural scientists infer that repressed emotions result in higher stress levels and the body can register these repressed emotions as increased cardiac activity or hypertension. It can also cause emotional displacement.

There are times when people become angry with someone at the workplace, due to whatever reason. But they are compelled to behave well. And when they walk off the vicinity, the anger starts manifesting itself in various ways. They can start exhibiting it or direct it towards their own near and dear ones.

This is the best example of emotional displacement resulting from repressed emotions. So, must we continue our ancient ritual of repressing emotions and face the consequences? Or should we learn the art of venting our emotions without causing emotional damage to others?

Emotional tagging

Ann Martin Graybiel, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), feels that memories or experiences are stored in various synapses and each memory is attached to a specific emotion called emotional tagging. In the context of the workplace, the professionals evaluate their new experiences with the existing memory and their decisions or perceptions are influenced by the process of emotional tagging.

Many a time, the professionals’ thinking is entangled by the infinite loop of evaluating different workplace experiences based on stored memory. This leads to the replay or recapitulation of the same emotions frequently. If an emotion like fear or anxiety is tagged to the stored memory, the same emotion torrents the mind multiple times, which may impact the individual’s emotional well-being. However, the experts in brain plasticity opine that the loop can be averted, and new synapses can be formed while tagging positive emotions.

A workplace is indeed a sophisticated ecosystem of emotions with higher levels of interdependence. Any intrinsic or extrinsic interpersonal disturbances in this ecosystem may lead to unpleasant repercussions. Therefore, it is crucial to enhance one’s emotional awareness and nurture empathy in workplaces.

Here are some best practices that can promote a professional’s emotional well-being and optimise positive relations at the workplace.

Autosuggestion: This has been one of the alternative therapies in psychology used in reengineering one’s thought patterns and associating positive emotions with thoughts. Empirical studies have validated the applicability of autosuggestions. Professionals may practise autosuggestions with minimal therapeutic intervention. It is all about creative visualisation and structured positive affirmations.

Thought record: It is the nature of humans to search outside. They hardly have time to look within. Thoughts and emotions often visit and revisit our cognitive realm. They have repercussions on our emotional state. A thought record/diary may be one of the best self-induced interventions to introspect and reengineer thinking patterns associated with emotions.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a multifaceted approach to achieving emotional well-being and cultivating positive relationships at the workplace. One of the approaches to mindfulness is conditioning one’s mind to be in the present. It is a conscious practice wherein professionals embrace the present realities without regrets or anxiety and improve their quality of life. The progressive organisations in India have embraced mindfulness as an integral part of their wellness programmes.

Eudemonic well-being: It is a life experience derived from self-actualisation and altruistic behaviours. The best example of eudemonic well-being is a visit to an old age home or orphanage and trying to make their lives better without any expectations. In brief, it is a life filled with experiences of self-growth including physical, mental, and social fulfilment. One of the studies on cognitive neuroscience implied that eudemonic experiences augment brain health.

Once Swami Vivekananda said, “Talk to yourself at least once a day, otherwise you may miss a meeting with an excellent person in this world”. Introspecting for a few minutes a day enhances one’s emotional well-being.

(The author is a professor of Behavioural Science at MAHE, Bengaluru)

Published 19 December 2022, 14:02 IST

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