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How to Use Your Emotions to Boost Your Career

Careers

How to Use Your Emotions to Boost Your Career

Showing your emotions at work may sound to some like a recipe for disaster. But that isn’t actually the case—as long as you know what you’re doing.

In fact, if you’re aware of why you’re feeling the way you do and know what to do about it, you might get the job done better and faster than colleagues who brush their feelings under the rug.

This doesn’t give you a free pass to let your emotions run wild when you don’t get your way. It does, however, give you a push to look at yourself and learn how to manage what’s going on inside of you so you can make a positive impact at work—and in all areas of your life for that matter.

 

Why EQ Is As Important As IQ

Authors Steven Stein and Howard Book (The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success) define emotional intelligence (EQ) as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves; develop and maintain social relationships; cope with challenges; and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”

A management course taught by Bentley Professor of Management and Psychology Aaron Nurick starts off with a key component of EQ: self-awareness.

“As our body’s signaling device, emotions provide important data,” Nurick says. “To use emotions to our benefit, we first need to know what we’re feeling at a given time; otherwise, we won’t be able to do anything about or with them. Awareness and management of emotions go hand-in-hand.”

 

Emotions provide important data that you can use to the benefit of your career #bentleyu #preparedu

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It’s important for students in Nurick’s course to know what’s going on inside their minds and bodies. An article by online career recruitment provider Monster warns managers that acting as a superhuman or keeping a lid on emotions will set you up for failure.

Nurick cites research by Daniel Goleman and co-authors Peter Salovey and David Caruso showing that higher levels of EQ relate to better performance on the job. Social and emotional skills result in better teamwork and less groupthink because high EQ people don’t see conflict or confrontation as the enemy. They can handle the heat without dissolving or creating toxic environments. This leads to better decisions, and ultimately better performance.

EQ as a complement to IQ, says Nurick, is essential for working, managing and leading effectively. “People in business cultures have traditionally held ambivalent views about showing emotions at work, mostly stemming from the fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable. Despite our best efforts to avoid or compartmentalize them, our emotions are always present and having an impact on our behavior.”

 

Putting Emotions to Good Use 

When it comes to the workplace, he has the following tips for managers (taken from his Harvard Business Review blog “Good Enough Can Be Great”):

DO:

  • Embrace the role of teacher and mentor
  • Get to know your employees as individuals
  • Help employees find strengths they may not immediately see
  • Allow the freedom to fail and learn from mistakes
     

DON’T:

  • Interfere with employee autonomy
  • Put employees down to portray yourself in a positive light
  • Partake in destructive office gossip or politics
  • Forget that your employees are people with their own lives and agendas
     

And for employees:

  • Understand that emotions are a natural part of life and are a useful source of important information
  • Learn to recognize how you experience and express (two different things) complex emotions such as anger and anxiety
  • Tune into the feelings of others, so that you can learn more about what is important to them—listen actively and empathically
  • Use your emotions to energize and motivate yourself
  • Don’t run from emotions—you can't outrun them because they are always with you
  • Learn when emotions get in the way and try new skills to manage them


Emotions aren’t always a sign of weakness, and they certainly shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed as unnecessary in the workplace. Nurick’s class might sound more like a psychology course than a management course (he says it's actually both), but he wants students to walk away with a better understanding of their emotional life and to develop some new skills in putting their emotions to work effectively.

“I want them to realize that emotions are always working whether or not we are aware of them. Ultimately, I want to make them positive emotional forces that will create and run emotionally healthy, humane and productive work environments.”

Isn’t that the kind of CEO, manager and colleague you want to work with?


Kristen Walsh is a freelance writer.

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