Career Woman

Banish negative thoughts at work with the power of emotional agility


The school playground was treacherous emotional turf. The place that should have been the safest, most fun, rewarding part of your schooldays was also where your individuality was put to the test. Equal parts sports arena, popularity contest, and confession booth, your emotions were pushed to their extremes every time you were given the giddying freedom of a twenty-minute break from class.

If that was emotionally grueling, how are you meant to navigate the world of work – where your personality is your primary tool, every success comes laden with fear of failure, and you’re surrounded by ambition and competition?

The prevailing idea of what makes you a professional doesn’t leave much room for your emotional life. Yet you rely on your emotions every day, to help you make judgment calls, deal with interpersonal issues, and to enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile.

The flipside of these are those emotions that remain in your peripheral vision. The self-doubt that you refuse to consciously acknowledge. The catastrophizing that paralyzes you from making bold decisions. The boredom, anger, or resentment that eats away at your productivity even as you stare at the screen, willing yourself to work.

But you’re not a kid any more. And if your playground supervisors didn’t equip you with the tools to process your negative emotions, it doesn’t mean those tools remain out of reach today. Emotional agility isn’t purely innate: it can be achieved with the conscious use of tools and techniques to yank those unhelpful feelings back under control.

While you’ll need to put the emotional work in, the principles of emotional agility are as simple as ABC.

Show up, step out, and move on

Showing up has to be the first step, because it’s about acknowledging those inner murmurs of discontent to start with. If you’re ambitious and driven, it can be all too easy to try to silence the nagging doubts in your mind, but it’s not healthy. At best you will be compromising your performance and banking those negative thoughts to be cashed when you least expect them. At worst, you could be hiding important truths about your work and yourself.

When you sense a negative thought, stop yourself and catch it right there. So you think your angry boss is angry with you in particular: do you actually have any evidence for this? So you hate your job: do you really hate it, or are you just stewing because you’ve had a bad day?

Letting these thoughts continue unflagged just turns them into mantras of negativity.

Stepping out allows you to see these feelings for what they are, and deal with them in a manner more befitting your professional persona. Whether you’re on the verge of yelling at a colleague, or sitting by yourself snapping pencils, there is a lot to be said for taking a deep breath, stretching, and returning to the topic from a more objective viewpoint.

That might be about revisiting the facts, for example listing the outcomes of a ‘worst case scenario’ and dealing with them one-by-one. Or it might mean an emotional reboot, which can be achieved through techniques such as spending a few moments writing about a more positive recent experience. You can also create a kind of praise bank: when people complement your work, or you receive an award or recognition for something only you could do, return to that thought whenever you’re troubled by self-doubt.

And finally, it’s time to move on. Negative thoughts can be informative, but once they’ve served their purpose you need to consign them to yesterday. Remind yourself: this thought won’t help me. And look ahead to the next steps in your task: taking a new action, maybe even in a fresh physical space, can help you shake off that nagging fug of negativity.

If you can learn from the demons you put down as you move along, all the better for you.

This new infographic from QuidCorner offers an eight-step path across the turf of negative workplace emotions. Deal with those feelings in a grown up way, and work can become a fun and free place in which to excel once more.

Banish negative thoughts at work with the power of emotional agility

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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