Emotion Management at the Workplace


Seema Gupta
Sr. Lecturer (PGDM)
Babu Banarasi Das National Institute of Technology & Management

Every one experiences emotions at work.  We get frustrated with bosses giving more work when they don't understand how much work we already have.  We get upset with co-workers who don't do their jobs, so we can't do ours.  We get angry with irate customers who don't realize we are only trying to help.  We worry about an uncertain future. The present paper is an attempt to explore the theoretical description of emotions and its management in the workplace.

All humans have basic emotional needs. These needs can be expressed as feelings, for example the need to feel accepted, respected and important. While all humans share these needs, each differs in the strength of the need, just as some of us need more water, more food or more sleep. One person may need more freedom and independence, another may need more security and social connections. One may have a greater curiosity and agreater need for understanding, while another is content to accept whatever he has been told.

EMOTION is considered as  Energy in MOTION. It is an energy moving through your body. The root word is "emote", which implies the direction the energy is moving - out.  Emotions are an attempt to express outwardly, to express what we believe.
If your belief is unconscious then you act on automatic pilot.  If conscious, then you have some choice.  In either case, how you feel is a reflection of how you think.  Your negative thoughts produce negative emotions.  Your positive thoughts produce positive emotions.So, emotion is not something that happens to you.  Emotion is actually something you are doing.

Some authors use the terms primary and secondary emotions. This distinction is very helpful. A primary emotion is what we feel first. The secondary emotion is what it leads to.Anger is a good example of a secondary emotion. There are many possible primary emotions which, when they are intense enough, can lead to anger. We might feel insulted, pressured, cheated, etc.

Importance of Emotions

Here are a few of the reasons our emotions are important in our lives.


Nature developed our emotions over millions of years of evolution. As a result, our emotions have the potential to serve us today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions alert us when natural human need is not being met.

Decision Making

Our emotions are a valuable source of information. Our emotions help us make decisions.

Predicting Behavior

Our feelings are also useful in helping us predict our own, and others' behavior.

Boundary Setting

When we feel uncomfortable with a person's behavior, our emotions alert us. If we learn to trust our emotions and feel confident expressing ourselves we can let the person know we feel uncomfortable as soon as we are aware of our feeling. This will help us set our boundaries which are necessary to protect our physical and mental health.


Our emotions help us communicate with others. Our facial expressions, for example, can convey a wide range of emotions. If we look sad or hurt, we are signaling to others that we need their help. If we are verbally skilled we will be able to express more of our emotional needs and thereby have a better chance of filling them. If we are effective at listening to the emotional troubles of others, we are better able to help them feel understood, important and cared about.


The only real way to know that we are happy is when we feel happy. When we feel happy, we feel content and fulfilled. This feeling comes from having our needs met, particularly our emotional needs.


Our emotions are perhaps the greatest potential source of uniting all members of the human species. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they have tragically and even fatally divided us. Emotions, on the other hand, are universal.

Emotions At the Workplace

Emotions do not just effect organizations but contribute to their structure. In fact a great deal of leadership is actually about emotion management. Organizations are emotional places, organizations and businesses use emotions to motivate employees to perform and customers to buy. Various events in organizations create emotions and affect an employee's sense of satisfaction or outrage. Our sense of organizational identity is connected to how we feel. Rules about the display of emotions act as organizing forces within organizations and are used to create organizational structure and shape behavior. Emotions are also essential to inspirational leadership. However, emotions can harm employees, affect how they react to pressures and be the cause of low productivity and poor results.

Emotions are a part of our everyday existence as they move through the body, affecting our state-of-mind, performance, health and energy. Some recent research even suggests that all decisions are emotionally based, and that logic is used to provide a rational explanation for whatever decision is taken. .

In a workplace dominated by the emphasis on rational and logical thinking, the role of emotions in decision-making and effective action has been often neglected. The researchers also found that emotion management is not something that is typically taught at work. Most organizations have traditionally focused on teaching logical and rational thinking and have neglected emotional learning in their development programs. As such, to learn what is and is not appropriate, most employees learn to manage their emotions by observing others in the workplace. However, in the last few years many executive / organizational coaches (trained in the use of psychological-based methodologies) have been increasingly called upon to develop specialist programs in this arena. These coaches are typically working with leaders to: a) help them better understand the impact that their moods and emotions have on their behaviour, relationships and performance and, b) providing them with techniques to better manage them and create productive emotional spaces. Current research shows that by acquiring emotional management skills and techniques managers and leaders can more readily create positive and productive results in every aspect of their lives.

Emotion management refers to the ways in which people influence their own feelings and expressions and the ways in which they influence other people's feelings. All employees engage in emotion management as part of their jobs and employers often play a significant role in shaping emotion management.For many years emotion in the workplace was only considered important in relation to employee well being and job satisfaction. More recently, however, it has been recognised that emotions play a role in almost all work activities. Emotions influence what tasks employees' work on, what effort they exert, how they react to situations, and how they influence other people. In other words, what employees feel and how they express their emotions affects their performance and the performance of others. Effective emotion management is therefore important both to employers and employees.

Benefits of effective emotion management for employers and employees

There are a number of ways in which employers can gain from facilitating effective emotion management:

  • Immediate gains, such as sales arising from customers who are positively influenced to purchase products or services.
  • Encore gains, such as repeat business arising from customers who feel positive about     the service they received.
  • Contagion gains, such as additional business arising from customers' word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Internal gains, such as improved internal processes arising from improved communication and well being.

Employees can also personally gain from managing their emotions effectively. For example, research has shown that service employees can receive bigger tips or bonuses if they are more emotionally expressive. Effective emotion management can also enhance employees' feelings of personal achievement, identity, and well being. However, employees may experience emotional exhaustion and burnout if they are required to repeatedly display the same emotions. This is most likely to occur when there is a mismatch between what employees feel and what they have to express.

Two main ways in which employees can manage their emotional expressions are surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting involves employees expressing the emotions required by the job without actually feeling those emotions. For example, an employee might fake a smile for a customer and hide his or her true feelings. However, surface acting does not always appear authentic and the discrepancy between what employees express and feel may cause employees to feel alienated. In contrast, deep acting involves employees trying to experience the emotions that they have to express. This method of emotion management requires more effort but, compared to surface acting, it can lead to better service performance and greater job satisfaction. There is a wide range of emotion regulation strategies that employees can use to maintain or change their feelings. Some of the most effective strategies for alleviating negative emotions involve: engaging with the problem at hand, reappraisal of the situation, thinking about something pleasant, or doing something active. Ineffective regulation strategies include avoiding the problem and venting anger. Following are the nine steps recommended for mastering emotions:

Nine Step Process for Mastering Emotions

Managing Emotions

I. Awareness of Doing an Emotion

Whether happy or unhappy we are taught that the events of our lives cause how we feel.  Our culture teaches us that emotions happen to us.  The truth is that emotions are not something that happens to you.  Emotions are something that you are doing.  There is a moment when you decide that a particular emotional response is the action to take in a given situation.  Becoming aware of the onset of an emotion in the present leads to an ability to choose a better more productive emotional response in the future.  It requires a lot of practice.

II. Honest Description of an Emotion's Purpose

An honest description of all emotions as actions you are choosing to take is necessary for overcoming the misperception of yourself as a victim.  You have been taught to use your emotion in an attempt to change or influence your surroundings.  An honest and accurate description of your emotional/action will aid in your ability to be responsible for how you feel and to be more successful in how you affect your surroundings.

III. Acceptance of Response/Ability for Your Emotions

You feel what you choose to feel -- unless you have some chemical or neurological damage.  You can assume total responsibility for what you feel and what you express.  What 'they' did may be very wrong, but that does not obligate you to feel a particular way in response.  You cannot control your initial reaction to anything - don't even try.  You can learn to accept responsibility though thus giving yourself the ability to respond in new and more caring ways, for yourself and others. You can always clean things up.

Managing Thoughts

IV. Identification of Facts Vs. Beliefs

Our cognitive perceptions about what is true in our lives cause our emotional responses. Perceptions are comprised of attitudes, prejudices, judgments, and beliefs that we think are true.  Ascertain the exact facts about the incidents in your life, separate from your beliefs about these facts is the beginning of freedom.

V.  Identification of Beliefs about Your "Self"

A primary influence on your abilities to deal successfully with life's challenges is your own beliefs about you!  By identifying the distinction between the facts and your beliefs about the facts, you will uncover irrational and unproductive beliefs about yourself.  When your self-defeating beliefs are examined with a loving and understanding eye, they may very well change.

V. Acceptance of Responsibility for Your Thoughts

Having discovered negative self-beliefs, you may ask yourself whether it feels good to hold such beliefs. Your answer will always be 'No'.  That should tell you something.  Recognize that, for whatever reason, you have chosen to accept an irrational self-defeating belief in the past.  You can choose to believe something more positive in the future.  Your thoughts are not determined by others or by what happens around you. Your thoughts result from your own choice.  Change and growth occur by taking responsibility for what you are choosing to create within yourself.  Choose to continually be making better choices.

Managing Behaviors

VI. Identification of Your Desired Behavioral Goals

Behavior is motivated by conscious and unconscious desires. Becoming conscious of your goals as implied in your behavior leads to more responsible and successful attainment of your desired outcomes.

VII. Relationship between Your Present Behavior and Your Desired Goals

The way you behave when you are upset is often counterproductive to your goals. Identifying the relationship between your present course of action and your goals will increase the possibility of choosing the most appropriate behaviors for attaining greater personal and professional success.

VIII. Acceptance of Responsibility for Behavior

Creative behavior results from acceptance of responsibility for emotions, thoughts and behavior.  Effective self-management results from an ability to chose more appropriate behavior in response to conflict situations and to put your choices into action - every day!

Emotional intelligence is relevant here. In this perspective emotional intelligence can be defined as a person's ability to monitor, understand, use and change emotions in self and others. It is therefore clearly relevant to emotion management at work. However, there is some disagreement about what constitutes emotional intelligence and about the extent to which it overlaps with personality traits and general intelligence. Nevertheless, preliminary evidence suggests that aspects of emotional intelligence may relate to job effectiveness. Emotional intelligence competencies can be learned and could therefore be enhanced by appropriate training. Employers can use a diverse range of methods to influence emotion management. In the first instance, employers can recruit applicants who have the necessary emotion management skills for the job. For example, during the selection process, care workers might be assessed for their empathic skills and sales staff for their emotional resilience. Staff can also be trained and rewarded for their use of emotion skills. However, the use of classroom training is likely to be less effective than on the job training. The provision of role models and mentors can also help shape how employees use emotion skills. Supportive supervision can also have a role in influencing how individuals and teams use emotions.

There are a number of reasons why employers should be careful in their attempts to influence emotion management:

  • Ethics. Many people view emotions as very personal experiences. Employers' attempts to control emotions may therefore be regarded as interference and resisted by employees.
  • Emotion Display Rules. People learn how to use emotion management skills from infancy and may therefore actually be hindered in their work by having to follow inflexible corporate emotion display rules. For example, some service organisations require employees to follow dialogue scripts during interactions with customers. Unfortunately scripts do not generally lend themselves to natural interaction and are usually insensitive to important emotional cues from customers.
  • Emotional Contagion. Emotions are contagious between people and can therefore spread within teams and across employee networks. Research has found that emotional contagion can also affect team and service performance. It is therefore important to recognise that emotional events at work can have widespread effects.


In summary, companies can benefit in a number of important ways by considering how emotions are managed within their organisation but new initiatives require careful consideration and consultation with employees.


Goleman.D.; Emotional Intelligence Bloomsbery;London,1996

Prakash,G.P. and  Prakash,Agam. Development of emotional intelligence for better wordliness, Sikshamitra, vol.3, 2009, 35-38

A.Fisher,"success secret: A High emotional intelligence quotient". Reprinted from October 26,1998.

McDowelle and Bell (1997), Emotions in the workplace :The new challenge for manager. Academy of management Executive., 16 (1), 76- 86






Seema Gupta
Sr. Lecturer (PGDM)
Babu Banarasi Das National Institute of Technology & Management

Source: E-mail March 12, 2010


Articles No. 1-99 / Articles No. 100-199 / Articles No. 200-299 / Articles No. 300-399 / Articles No. 400-499
Articles No. 500-599 / Articles No. 600-699 / Articles No. 700-799 / Articles No. 800-899 / Articles No. 900-1000
Articles No. 1001-1100 / Articles No. 1101 Onward / Faculty Column Main Page