Handling difficult situations at work with emotional intelligence

One of the most important skills needed at work is emotional intelligence. To give it a broad definition, emotional intelligence (EI) is a compilation of competencies that demonstrate a person’s ability to be in touch with his or her own moods, behaviours and impulses. We need to understand our own emotions and exercise control over our behaviours.

EI enables us to engage with colleagues and build strong working relationships with our superiors and our mentees. This set of skills drives us to acknowledge our feelings and those around us. We can effectively and appropriately respond to situations instead of reacting without predicting what is behind the reaction. Harnessing that emotional energy is beneficial to us, our colleagues, our company and clients.

Change your attitude towards ‘difficult’ teammates

For instance, dealing with a “difficult” teammate is an uphill battle. When one of your team members is always late on assignments yet you have to make a presentation to an important group of people—your boss and potential investors—you have to find a way to get the work done despite the pressure. Ambushing your ever late colleague may elicit in them a feeling of being attacked and they may lash out through unpleasant emails or in person. Find out why they are always late. Are assignments and instructions handed to them early enough? When something goes wrong at work, do not be too quick to jump in with criticism and look for someone to blame. Make a judgment based on your teammate’s internal characteristics such as laziness and bad attitude. Let not external factors that were beyond their control-- such as bad weather, bureaucracy, and ineffective systems—be the basis for calling them difficult. You will end up blaming others for issues you would never blame yourself. In addition, do not let yourself off the hook and shift the blame when you are actually at fault. This cognitive bias will make you fail to give others the same credit you give yourself when things go wrong. Eventually, you will learn that your teammate was not as “difficult” as you had previously imagined. You just needed a shift in perspective.

‘Unfair’ managers

The amount of pressure and responsibility a manager has to deal with can only be understood by someone in a similar position. However, since bosses have powers, they also have the temptation to abuse it. The brunt of the manager’s stress can be taken out on you in ways that make the workplace a difficult place. 

What not to do:

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Do not bottle up your frustrations at work and release them at home, you will only hurt your loved ones. Try to exercise before you go to work. Wake up earlier and go for a run. The boost in endorphins will make your mind less irrational and you will be able to deal calmly with any situation that’s thrown at you. Avoid over-analysing and predicting what your boss may do.  If your boss flies off the handle, in no way does it mean that you have to do the same. Bring back control of your emotions by stopping the spiral of negative thoughts and turn them into focused actions on work. They say, the boss is always right, but do not blame yourself automatically because you are inclined to agree with your boss.

What to do:

Emotionally uncouple yourself from a negative boss so that the berating words won’t carry a lot of weight on you. The workplace can be an overwhelming bubble that obscures the truth and makes us feel as if our entire life rests in the office. Get an outside perspective. Meet a friend who doesn’t work with you and talk it out without the worry of possible fallout. Own up to your mistakes and keep your head up. Your positive attitude will ensure that you do not get to be treated unfairly. Every company has a system to deal with misconduct; complain to the relevant office when you are genuinely abused. Learn your lessons; a bad boss can teach you about compassion and integrity probably more than a good one.

Unhappy clients

Bill Gates once said. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” As a person who has been in business for a long time, I am inclined to agree with him. Clients may differ with you because of personality clashes with you or they are simply unhappy with services provided. Problematic clients contribute to changes at work, staff turnover, stress, and even poor reputation. Stay cool and collected when conversing with a hostile client. Anger makes us sound more upset that we really are.

Retaliating in anger may result in a bad company reputation. You put your point across clearer when in calm and with a stern demeanor. Listen to the customer’s concern and make it a priority to have the issue sorted out. This is a good way to establish good communication from the beginning. Get to the root of the matter and offer a long-lasting solution based on your terms of the agreement. Your difficult customer may eventually end up as your most loyal client who markets you by how you sailed through a tough moment.

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Difficult situationsWorkplacesEmotional intelligence