How to Deal With Negative Emotions About Work
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
It’s perfectly normal to not be happy at work all of the time, but when the negative feelings begin to take over it can become all-encompassing and have a harmful effect on your wellbeing.
Whether you feel anger and hostility towards colleagues, self-doubt and anxiety about your abilities, or you feel completely overwhelmed by your workload, there are some strategies you can use to turn these feelings around.
Acknowledge how you feel
Acknowledging your emotions without judgement is the first thing that needs to happen before you can address how you feel and why you feel that way. Try to just allow the emotion to be there, observe it like a curious scientist might observe a new phenomenon, make room for it and remember that however overwhelming it feels it will never be bigger than you are.
It can be all too easy to let emotion flow through us, without acknowledging it or understanding what the root of it is. So take some time to think about what is causing the feeling, being really honest with yourself. Sometimes the root cause can be a surprise and not what you initially thought it was.
Try to resolve the situation
If the cause of your problem is something that can be addressed, devise a plan to resolve it. For example, if you feel that you have too much work, could you speak to your boss and see if you could get some support? They may not realise how snowed under you feel. Or, if you feel that a colleague isn’t pulling their weight on a team project, could you explain to them that you value their input and it would be beneficial if they could provide more of it? It may be that they don’t understand what they are supposed to be doing.
Unfortunately, not all situations can be resolved or controlled, such as the disappointment or frustration you may feel if you were passed over for a promotion. In cases like this, it is important to allow yourself to feel the emotions without holding on to them, accepting that it is OK to feel that way at this time but that it will pass.
Reduce the intensity of the emotions
Thinking objectively about how you feel and the situation you are in, can help you to come to terms with it and reduce the strength of the negative feelings. Consider what you would say to a friend in the same situation.
To avoid future negative emotions becoming as intense it can help to learn to recognise your initial stress response, so you can implement a coping mechanism before things escalate. You can read more about why this is beneficial and how to do it here.
Find the positives
By focusing on the aspects of what you like or appreciate about your job, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, will help you to feel more positive throughout your working day and acts as a buffer against stress. Whether you like the people you work with, enjoy the challenge your job brings and the satisfaction you feel after completing a task, or you find the view out of your window calming, it all helps.
At the end of each day write down three positive things from your working day. If you end up repeating some of them daily that is fine, but try to vary them day-to-day if you can.
Then, when you are at work make an effort to savour the things you have previously noted down as positives. Consciously enjoy the anticipation of it when you know it is about to happen, take the time to appreciate them while they are occurring and relish the memory afterwards.
Use your support network
Consider which of the relationships you have at work are beneficial to you and work on fostering those. Positive social networks act as a buffer against stress, helping us to experience positive emotions and to analyse and find solutions when we have problems.
If someone is a negative drain on you, then stop investing your energy into them. Of course, at work you still need to maintain a professional relationship with everyone and you can’t stop talking to people, but hopefully you can stop eating lunch with them or socialising with them out of work.
To help build on the positive relationships ensure you are a responsive and interested participant in them. Be kind and generous. Listen without judgment and share without judgement. You can learn more about the importance of positive relationships and how to build them here.
Making these changes and reducing the negative emotions you feel at work won’t happen overnight. Much like any other skill, it is something that you will need to practice and you may have lapses where you fall back on old habits. Acknowledge when this happens, try to see it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and devise strategies to do things differently if need be, and move on without giving yourself a hard time.