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Are your emotions tripping you up?

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In the workplace you need to be able to manage your emotions in order to achieve the best outcomes. Studies have shown that people who handle their emotions and the emotions of others, those who have a high emotional intelligence, produce better results. 

Emotions affect you in many different way. Frustration, anger or fear may take the focus away from what you are doing. Feeling threatened can hold you back and you may not get the results you want. A project managers emotions can influence those around them through, motivating or demotivating a team, impacting negotiations with suppliers or changing the relationship with a client.

Emotions can kick off a number of reactions such as thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We often see anger as a reactive behaviour. The reaction can also be physical. Some people will go red, cry or have a twitch and in its extreme form where the emotion produces extreme stress, physical and mental illness is possible.

Emotional responses, however, are not all bad if we can channel them in a positive way. Tensions can lead to more focus and increased performance. Being calm when provoked can display strength. The energy from emotions can be powerful and when managed be used to increase your success. 

In order to manage them, we must first understand them.

So how can you identify how your emotions affect you?

Try the following:

1 - Make a note of those things that affect your emotions. Whether it is anger when reading an email, a senior manager’s comment, or making your own mistake.  As a project manager what annoys you? Someone not delivering on time, someone not trying or someone talking a lot and disturbing others?

2 - Identify the triggers that caused your emotion. If you don’t recognise what triggered the emotion review what has happened in the day up to that point. It may not be a person that causes the emotion. It may just be something that seems not to be linked, such as no tuna sandwiches available for lunch. It may also be someone who has annoyed you earlier and you end up taking it out on someone else, having unknowingly transferred your perceptions to another person.

If you find it impossible to identify the trigger, make a note in case it happens again and you can then reflect back and compare.

3 - Check for patterns in your reactions and identify your emotional strengths and weaknesses. If you react the same way to the same triggers getting unfavourable results then the perceptions and reactions of others won’t change. If you respond defensively each time someone questions you on whether you are going to deliver to budget, the perception is that you will not. This may be an emotional response to the question. This may be a pattern based on who is asking, past experience or lack of information and not a reflection of the status.

If you find it difficult to identify your emotions you may wish to keep a journal of your emotions for a while. Ask yourself at regular intervals, what am I thinking? Follow this with what am I feeling?

The journal can be as simple as recording emoticons.

If you are being effected emotionally to a point where you feel your stress is at a dangerous level it is important that you seek help.

You may also wish to read about: 

“Does your ‘ideal project manager’ look something like this?”


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  1. Eleri Evans
    Eleri Evans 21 September 2015, 03:31 PM

    We are doing some work around Emotional Intelligence in the people SIGYou may be interested in our current research around Emotional Intelligence and Behaviours.

  2. Carole Osterweil
    Carole Osterweil 15 September 2015, 04:18 PM

    Hi Richard,  you're right in both posts.  Emotions are often sharpened when there's a tight time frame and, everyone can develop greater Emotional Intelligence (EI). In my experience, developing EI becomes a whole lot easier when we understand how our brains work. I ran a session on this for the Midlands SIG earlier this summer and am running another one at the PMO SIGs Autumn Conference.I've also written about it in 'Escape the Catch 22!'  'Escape the Catch 22!' and keeping a journal of emotions as Eleri suggests would be a great starting point for anyone who recognises 'emotions trip them up'.

  3. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 14 September 2015, 08:20 PM

    Hi Eleri,As second thoughts could you consider the benefits of developing your personal EI as a PM in stages to enhance PM behavioural skills. One area I was thinking of;Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication.Reflecting upon the above is a learnable skill. Kindly Eleri and others offer up your opinion to enhance both knowledge and specific experience. The aim I suggest to develop a positive habit.It's just an idea, hope it appeals.Regards        Richard

  4. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 11 September 2015, 08:11 PM

    Hi Eleri,Thank you for the good post. In respect of developing organizational maturity in respect of channelling team emotions when say, in the situation of a negotiation or conflict situation development of EI tolerance levels I think has added value.With respect to conflict management the emotional trigger I suggest could as one option be determined prior to a meeting. Thereon a threshold could be established when dialogue develops beyond disagreement and learning when to come to closure of a meeting and walk away with strong emotional control.In some instances, upon reflection the means of communication as one option could be to cancel a face to face meeting and use technology to aid in conflict management to enable facts of an arguement be presented to a pre-set meeting length. I offer that emotions are sharpened when tactically there is a tight time frame for each party to respond and thereon be assertive and emotionally calm for associated decision making. Thank you.Kind regardsRichard