Emotional Awareness & Regulation at Work

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Focus on emotional self-awareness and self-regulation to make better decisions and develop stronger workplace relationships.

slef awareness self regulation

Becoming more self-aware requires you to shine a light on areas you can improve on that you may not necessarily be aware of, which help you to improve authenticity as a leader.

Adam Weber, Chief People Officer at Emplify

Last week saw Novak Djokovic lose more than a match at the US Open. His display of unregulated frustration cost him dearly in losing his chance of another grand slam title, ranking points, prize money and perhaps worst of all, his reputation.

While it’s rare to see tennis balls flying around the workplace at high speed causing injury, hurtful words and actions are sadly commonplace. These can cause greater immediate damage and have a longer term adverse impact on your organisation.

Even in a buoyant business environment there is pressure in the workplace, and people will always react in a way that is less than helpful. The current COVID climate pushes this pressure to an extreme, leading to often extreme reactions and judgments. 

Letting the ball go out of play

As one of the game’s greatest, Novak can ordinarily place a ball on the court exactly where he wants it. To have misjudged it so badly last week, hitting his co-worker line judge (for that is what she is – a co-worker in the tournament), just goes to show how the added pressure affected his judgment. His job was to let the ball go out of play, instead he chose to smash it without due care and attention.

Now apply this principle to the people in your workplace. Even the most level-headed will react differently as the pressure mounts. If you, and they, are not aware of this potential change, the chances of a metaphorical mis-hit could be serious. Further apply this to the most volatile (we’re looking at you Nick Kyrgios) and you’ve got a significant problem on your hands.

Understand it, then catch it

Think about it. Have you ever wondered why you made that extreme decision? Why did you say/do that thing which you regretted almost immediately? You are not a bad person – you didn’t mean to cause harm or offence. You just made a bad decision based on a counter-productive reaction. Now you feel terrible. None of this is constructive.

Professor Steve Peters in his excellent book, The Chimp Paradox, explains it brilliantly. In your regular day-to-day state you are the Human. You work well with people, get on with things and there is little drama. However, when the pressure mounts, your Chimp breaks free, looking for trouble with its fight, flight or fright responses.

In Novak’s case, his Chimp fought and the line judge was his unwitting opponent. Perhaps a Sales Director with a looming target will stand by helplessly as the Chimp explodes with frustration at the team, or freezes, unable to motivate the team, leaving it to flounder and fail. Prof Steve tells us that while we are not our Chimp, we are responsible or its actions.

Novak certainly had no wish to injure his co-worker, but he allowed it to happen by not being sufficiently aware of and able to regulate his Chimp-like reaction.

This happens all the time in workplaces throughout the world. Huge damage is done to professional and personal relationships, productivity is decimated and people are left burnt out by the effort it takes to keep going.

You can’t begin to avoid this behaviour unless you understand it. But being self-aware doesn’t come easily – you need an objective mirror in which to reflect without self-blame. Developing self-awareness is not about beating yourself over the head with a tennis racket, it’s not an assault on your character, it’s to shine a light on a skill set that you need to and can develop.

Making the time to look inward is the first step. Taking a long, hard look in the mirror might be painful, but it’s an essential first step in gaining the confidence required to become your own kind of leader.

Adam Weber, Chief People Officer at Emplify

Respond proportionately

The trick is to managing these emotional outbursts or withdrawals (for both are damaging) is to be aware of how it starts. Developing self-awareness is not painless, but it is ultimately cathartic and positive. It takes strength to look in that mirror and accept personal responsibility. With this skill (yes, it’s a skill – we can all learn it), we can begin to identify when our Chimp is about to break free to take over and catch it by the tail. Then we can take stock, analyse and choose to respond in a way that is proportionate to the situation.

Sometimes that is simply to walk away, give no reaction for a period of time or in Novak’s case, allow the ball to quietly go out of play.

This is powerful stuff. Consider how often a damaging decision has been made in haste or how many destructive conversations have you been witness or party to. How often have you wished that you could go back and do something differently, if only you’d taken a little more time to think differently. This is what self-awareness and self-regulation allows you to do. We hope that Novak is working on his right now.

Use eqflow® to develop emotional self-awareness and self-regulation

eqflow® from flowprofiler® delivers rich insights to help organisations develop and recruit for emotional intelligence in their people. Use it as part of your recruitment, development and coaching strategy to create the strong all-round performers that will help your organisation to thrive through and beyond the current COVID crisis. 

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