Tips to Curb Negativity in the Workplace Using Emotional Intelligence

Stressed at Work?Toxic office environments filled with gossip and low morale create bad days at work. The stress of deadlines, expectations from the leadership team, and a breakdown in interpersonal communications leaves little room for productivity or effective project management. When stress levels rise, our breathing pattern becomes erratic, we lose concentration, and stress hormones are released. The pressure to perform is greater while our responses can become more defensive or decrease in effectiveness. Worse, when you’re working on a deadline like developing communications or marketing strategies, launching an event, conducting press interviews or speaking at a press conference can make for a daunting experience.

Much of the time, a solid and supportive team will alleviate many of the above mentioned pressures. But, breakdowns in communication attributed to bullying, gossip, cliques, and a devaluation of team members can dismantle the workplace environment. The focus must draw on education in Emotional Intelligence as a catalyst for change.

Emotional Intelligence, as a psychological theory, was developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer:

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

Emotional inelligenceHere, we call on Daniel Goleman’s 5 components of Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) for you to lead your team to become a productive, proficient, and strategic force in your position, career, and life outside the office.

1) Self-awareness: The ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Self-awareness depends on one’s ability to monitor one’s own emotion state and to correctly identify and name one’s emotions.”

Change begins with you. Ask yourself what you need to change your perspective at work? How can you influence a more positive and collaborative environment at work? What does your job mean to you? Does it define you? What are your goals pertaining to self-care and professional growth? Think about whether you become caught up in the never-ending cycle of mistrust and gossip. Get to know yourself and allow yourself to become an observer of the chaos. Bring professionalism and peace to work with you. Disengage from unhealthy conversations by developing tools and abilities to interact and cope with the people around you.

2) Self-regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting. Hallmarks include trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; and openness to change.

If a conversation turns to gossip or drama, disengage. Smile and remove yourself from the conversation or change the subject. Indicate that this may not be the original topic of conversation or appropriate. If you’re not comfortable with that tactic, smile and walk away. If you have a high level of Emotional Intelligence, allay the negativity in the negative co-worker’s insecurity and discomfort. Use body language and decrease the level of eye contact. Change the subject as not to negatively reinforce the behavior and share a quick compliment, story, or conversation for positive reinforcement of professionalism and positivity. Remember the amount of time we spend with co-workers. Cross-training occurs in more than simple job tasks.

Sometimes self-regulation is difficult when the topic of the conversation becomes you or someone you work closely with. Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter identified 9 defense mechanisms we unknowingly incorporate in effort to cope or develop conditioned responses throughout our careers and at home. We can easily lose self-control through defending ourselves and others. Before you respond to any accusations or rumors, take the time you need before you respond. An effective tactic in training yourself to recondition defense mechanisms is to take 10 breaths before responding. Those seconds relax our breathing, provide a dramatic increase in brain oxygen, and decrease reactions from stress levels raised by the release cortisol, the stress hormone. Leaders use this inherently. They remain calm, answer slowly with thought. We must call on our strength in leadership and professionalism. The more calm and confident in who we are, the less reactionary we will become. 

3) Internal motivation:  A passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status -which are external rewards, – such as an inner vision of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks include a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure, and organizational commitment.

Dig into your projects. Feel good about your contributions, accomplishments, and team players regardless of the company politics or culture. Solid and purpose, a mission to advance you levels of capability and knowledge propels us. Deliver on your promise to yourself to maintain integrity is a magnet that will motivate others’ work ethic, call for self-motivation and your example will be a magnet to people who will see you as a leader in any role you play in your organization.

4) Empathy: The ability to understand the emotional make-up of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers.

 Empathy means we care; a character trait that used to seem to belong outside the workplace but the research has concluded that team-building and creating healthy and deep friendships and alliances at work is encouraged. People who gossip are clearly uncomfortable, can be unhappy, and detrimental to company morale and culture. They may feel slighted, disengaged, pre-occupied with hardships at home, or have a myriad of unknown issues they’re experiencing. Sometimes, a simple word of encouragement, or display of understanding allows for connections they may be missing. We are not required to fix another’s issues but for a positive working relationship, we can be true to ourselves as empathetic listeners and get back to work! 

5) Social skills: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks of social skills include effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, and expertise building and leading teams.

Sometimes, people with very high levels of Intellectual Intelligence lack Emotional Intelligence. Be yourself! Find balance and bring your happiness to work with you. Leave any negativity from the days or weeks past behind. Carrying grudges or negativity is unhealthy for the body and mind. Don’t take the office home. Enjoy the limited time you have at home. The shift away from the negative brings a fresh perspective when you arrive to the office fresh the next day. Take charge of your surroundings and be the positive influence you’d like to see. Don’t depend on others to change. Change your perspective. Be a powerful engager, confident and strong. And remember, a shift in culture doesn’t happen overnight but, it has to start somewhere. Why not with you?