Master Your Emotions

Do you want to master your emotions, or do you want to be mastered by them? It is your choice.

Have you ever noticed or looked into why people get fired from their jobs? I have both researched this and witnessed it on 3 different occasions. The main reason people are fired from their job is not because of their competency (what they know), it is because of their character (who they are).

So, basically they are fired if they either behave negatively, have a bad attitude, can’t control their temper, or, aren’t trustworthy.

1. Character

However, when these people are hired, they are hired because of their competency (what they know). So, it would make sense to help our teams build on their characters at work. That way, they have less chance of being fired. It would also show our teams that we do care, and that people’s emotions are important to us.

Emotions are important because within a team, one person’s emotion can infect the whole team. Especially if that is a negative emotion. When I was an engineer and part of a team, negativity was very common.

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A negative attitude only had to come from one team member, and suddenly everybody had a negative attitude. It seemed a lot more difficult to infect the team with a positive attitude.

You can witness this for yourself.

When you are next in work and you are in the break out area, try to listen in on a group’s conversation. Listen out for what the general mood of the group is. Is it positive or negative? It will most likely be negative because negativity is a lot more contagious than positivity.

Do the same thing when you are part of a meeting. What is the atmosphere like in the meeting? Is it positive or negative? Make a note of it, and see if there is a common theme between the different meetings you go to.

When you are part of a group discussion, or in a meeting that is mostly negative, do your best not get dragged into the negativity. This is not easy to do, but it is imperative for you to remain on the right path to becoming a highly effective leader.

2. Negativity Or Positivity

If you become a negative person in your workplace then you will have a huge impact, but the wrong impact. You will infect others with your negativity. You will hinder your chances of new opportunities. You may not receive a pay rise. You most certainly will not be promoted. Most importantly, your influence will decrease.

When a highly effective leader is part of a negative group discussion, they either remain silent, or they try to infect the group with positivity. So, try to do the same and bring positivity into the conversation, or just remain silent.

Observe everyone in the group while the negative discussions are taking place. Spot who the ring leaders are. It is highly likely that they are low performing leaders, as this is a very common trait of theirs.

Over the years of working in the engineering industry, I always found that the most negative people were the ones with the loudest voices. Do you find that to be the same in your industry too?

They shout the loudest because they want to bring everybody around them to their level. They enjoy being the ring leaders of negativity. They want everyone to be just as low performing as they are.

I’ve tried to spread a positive message among teams throughout my career, whether I was the leader or not. A lot of the time, my positive message was ignored, or replaced by a negative message. Usually the negative message would come from the low performing leaders.

Highly effective leaders are sadly among the minority in the workplace. So, don’t get discouraged if you are outnumbered by low performing leaders. Keep spreading your message of positivity. It is times like this that you will truly be building up your character.

3. Other Emotions

Emotions such as anger and frustration cannot come out at the same time as a positive emotion. When you are positive you are pushing anger and frustration away. When you are frustrated and angry, you are pushing positivity away. Overcome anger and frustration, and remain positive.

In the early days of my career when I was in my 20’s and started studying leadership, I would do things that would keep me positive. One of those things was to go onto social media and join leadership groups. I wouldn’t join so I can chat every day.

I would join with the idea that I could read the positive stories from leaders. One day while reading these stories, I came across Zig Ziglar. He posted a picture with a quote on it that read “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” I loved that quote.

So, what I did was print this quote off and stick it up on the notice board in the office I was working in. I was working for Liverpool’s train operating company at the time.

It remained up there for as long as I worked there, which was 6 years. I was searching through these groups on a daily basis for more positive quotes. I remember one from Simon Sinek which said “True strength is the courage to admit our weaknesses.” Again I loved this quote.

But, instead of putting it on the notice board, I emailed it to everyone in our engineering team. Some people laughed, but most replied to me saying thanks. So I continued to email our team similar quotes from the groups I had joined.

Among the team you are in at this very moment, what is the general mood of the team? Are they constantly negative or positive? What is your general mood when you are at work? Are you constantly negative or constantly positive?

I have worked with many negative and low performing leaders, but none more so than when I worked in Edinburgh. I was engineering production manager for Scotland’s train operating company in 2011. There was one particular person whose name was Tam (His real name is Tom, but in Scotland they say Tam).

4. Changing Attitudes

He was a very hard worker but he was often frustrated and angry. His attitude was very negative towards his team leader, me and his teammates.

I sat him down to discuss this with him. He told me he was frustrated and angry because he felt nobody would listen to him. He told me about some of his ideas, but he felt he wasn’t able to share them because nobody would take any interest.

I asked Tam how he knew that nobody would listen to your ideas. He replied, “I don’t know it for sure, but I just know.” He felt that his team wouldn’t listen, so he was just assuming.

I told him to give it a try with his team leader, to share one idea with him. Then, I printed off the Zig Ziglar quote “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” He laughed as I expected, but he took it with him.

When our conversation finished and Tam went back to work, I know he was thinking differently. He was thinking of why he hadn’t shared any of his ideas. The truth is, he wasn’t angry and frustrated at his team. He was angry and frustrated at himself. But, his negative attitude was pointing the blame towards his team.

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The next day, Tam approached everyone with a smile and a hello instead of a frown and a growl. He was intentionally positive all day. It was hard, but he did it.

The next shift that Tam was working, he asked his team leader if he could have a word. He shared the idea of job swapping within the team. He thought by doing this, it would develop the rest of the team to become better engineers as they wouldn’t be doing the same thing every day.

It would also improve teamwork, build relationships, build trust and make the team happier.

His team leader then came to me with Tam’s idea and I said “Go for it!” So that’s what they did, and it worked.

Tam’s idea helped build the morale of the team, and they showed their gratitude by taking Tam out for a beer. Tam’s attitude totally changed. He was smiling a lot more, and he was no longer angry or frustrated. His positivity shone though and he became a highly effective leader.

If your team’s morale is low and nobody is doing anything about it, take the responsibility to improve it yourself

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

36 thoughts on “Master Your Emotions

  1. This is such good advice for the workplace and in life in general.

    #2 really sticks out to me in the importance of remaining positive even when surrounded by negativity. Sometimes we all need to vent a little about our frustrations, but keeping it professional and constructive is key in the workplace.

    Our staff meetings in one department I previously worked in would include an agenda item for anyone to share work-related success stories. That definitely helped contribute to a more positive work environment.

    Thank you for the reminder of the importance of mastering our emotions!

    1. Hi Leah,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article really good advice.

      I agree that doing your best to remain positive in times of negativity is essential. It is very difficult to do (for me anyway), but we must do our best to do it for the good of our people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for this lesson on monitoring our emotions. It is easy to be dragged into negative emotions if we are not conscious of our emotional estate. By nature we are often quick to see problems, or criticise others for things that aren’t going our way. I certainly know that I have fallen into that state before and still do sometimes. But as leaders we ought to move beyond just problem spotters to problem solvers, we need to celebrate others and be selective and careful in the way we give feedback.

    I’m a fan of Zig Ziglar too and one of his quotes that stuck with me is the one about the importance of our attitude. He said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” And I believe this also supports your opening remarks that it is not your lack of qualification or knowledge that limits your progression, it is often intangibles like your character and attitude.

    Keep up the good work.
    Best
    Femi

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you found this article valuable.

      Emotions is a topic that we need to talk more about. I am from a male dominated industry in engineering and it is very rare for somebody to talk about their emotions. We need to show “strength” and bottle up all of our feelings and emotions. When actually, showing emotion and being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom!

    I also really love that quote. Most of our negative emotions just stem from a form of fear. And even then, those types of fear could be broken down to even more precise emotions. A lot of my fear stems from abandonment and shame.

    It seems like Tam was also experiencing shame from the saboteur inside his head. I know so many people, including myself, that let their negative thoughts take over especially in the work place.

    It can be scary being vulnerable. But being brave and courageous, and taking that leap to do something for our future selves, will help us to over come those negative emotions. In the workplace, and in every part of our lives.

    Fantastic article as always!

    1. Hi Haley,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so pleased you loved the article and the quotes.

      I agree that our negative emotions do stem from a form of fear. A lot of my fear comes from isolation and not knowing what I don’t know. But, I do my to conquer that by being active and not letting myself get isolated. I still have negative emotions just like everyone, but I outweigh them with my positive thoughts and positive emotions.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. At the school where I work I have seen a lot of negativity over the past years, and you’re right, it can be so infectious. I remember two teachers who were always complaining about everything they could think of in the teacher’s room. It got so bad that I ended up avoiding the teacher’s room, because I didn’t want to get dragged down by their negativity.
    There was another teacher who was absolutely brilliant, a wonderful teacher with many great and fun teaching methods, and students liked him. However … he had a temper, and after he lost his temper with his immediate supervisor, he was fired …

    This article is important, since many people cannot always control their emotions at work. The worplace is not a place to rage at others or say bad things about certain situations or work related stuff. We all got things to deal with that we may not like, but spreading negativity is not fair towards your colleagues.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you found this article important, that really does mean a lot to me.

      I am so appreciative of you sharing your expereinces in the school that you work in. There will be lots of people who are in the same position as you who will read this and will be able to resonate with your expereinces. Hopefully they will be able to learn from you and you will be able to help them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Hi Tom, your article really hit home. I’ve always been a positive influence but the stresses of this pandemic, trying to build a team from home, and still meet all of the corporation’s expectations really have taken a toll on me. So much that it was brought to my attention. I think in this day and age everyone needs to realize the stresses of this pandemic and use the negative thoughts/feelings as a trigger to be quiet or turn it around.
    Thanks for the timeliness of this article. It really will effect a lot of people.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that this article hit home for you, means a lot to me.

      I absolutely feel your pain of the stresses of leading a team remotely. Leading a team before the pandemic was difficult enough, but the pandemic really has made it an even bigger challenge. Meeting the organisation’s expectations again is another major challenge. But, imagine how resilient you will become as a leader if you stick at it and don’t give up.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Yes, we think this is true negativity in the workplace can render bad influence, and other negative consequences(fired, no pay raise). Mastering your emotions at work and out of work can influence good character.
    Your article is teaching us more skills that we can take with us for our business to better our employees and ourselves.
    Mastering these skills is vital to any business you create, even to engage with your audience if you don’t have employees.
    Going to share this with others, this is a powerful tool that must be enforced with businesses, also to have success rates and retaining customers.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Mathew & Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that my articles are teaching you new skills. Means a lot to me and I hope you keep practicing those new skills.

      Mastering those new skills and mastering your emotions is so important as a leader and as a person who trying to be their best self every single day.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hey Tom, thanks for sharing this post. I know that mastering your emotions is one of the keys to success in life in general. Once a person manages to keep his or her emotions in check and not let them run you, you’ll definitely win. I personally have studied this a lot over the last few years and with practice, it’s becoming easier and easier. The best reward from this is that negative emotions can’t touch you anymore and you become “bulletproof” on all the negativity that comes from the world 24/7. Thanks again for sharing this post. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I couldn’t agree more that mastering our emotions is one of the keys to success in life. I appreciate you sharing your study of this topic and what you have found with it. Hopefully people will be able to learn from your expereinces just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom,

    Thank you a lot for this great article and sharing your experience on emotion management with us. You are absolutely true when you say that unfortunately many companies recruit for competence and then fire for attitude- Attitude is a fundamental criteria that recruiters have to take in consideration.

    Controlling our emotions is very important as it define our character which in turn define what we become.

    I would like to share one of my favorite quote with you: It is not your aptitude but your attitude that define you altitude!

    Continue the great work Tom!

    Cheers

    1. Hi Arnaud,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this article, means a lot to me.

      It’s my pleasure to share my experiences on this topic and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts too. Attitude is a fundamental criteria in all parts of life and is something that we need to keep track of on a daily basis.

      Thank you for sharing your quote too, I couldn’t agree with you more.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Another great piece of advice Tom thank you so much. Many don’t realize it can take years and perhaps a lifetime to learn these little gems of advice yet here they are getting it in a mere few seconds. The truth is that most are in the same situation and afraid to speak up about something thinking their ideas are not sound but in reality, a true leader want’s to hear from everyone because you never know who’s ideas will work until they’re tried. I too love Zig Zigler’s quote. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found this article a great piece of advice, means a lot to me.

      It really does take years and years to get control of our emotions. I still struggle with certain emotions and I have to work hard to get control of them. I do this by either exercising, going for a walk and reflecting or listening to music. There are many other things I can do too but as long as I am consciously working on it, I will get control.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. A leader is one who is in total control of his/ her emotions. In fact, emotional intelligence is placed well above IQ in the workspace. Thank u for your wonderful articles. They are a real treat to read.
    Regards,
    Aps

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you find my article a treat to read, means a lot.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Negativity isn’t great for us either personally or professionally. It’s very easy to get caught up in that. Everyone has heard the saying “misery loves company’. So, we really need to be consciously aware of what we are saying and listening to and ultimately engaging in. It can definitely have a negative effect on our experience of life personally and professionally. It takes effort, but more so the beginnings of awareness. Often we are conditioned too…I know I certainly was. We can see the positive when we choose to. The experiences and opportunities that become available to us or that we attract when we choose a more peaceful or positive mindset are amazing. We just need to notice the effects of both ways of being.

    1. Hi Martine,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I agree, negativity isn’t great in any part of our lives. Changing our thoughts from negative to positive can be life changing.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Hey Tom,

    This is so true. I can recall many a work situation where negativity seemed to infect everyone, moving swiftly from one person to the next

    And you’re so right, the most negative, the ringleaders, are typically the loudest.

    I honestly think this has a lot to do with herd-mentality too.

    If one person is being negative and moaning about things, then it seems like the right thing to do to follow suit.

    As for being a leader, this is definitely when it’s essential to remain above the negatvitiy, and be the voice of reason.

    I like your idea about sitting back, and taking in what others are saying, this is a great way to spot the potential “ringleaders”, which makes it easier to provide a solution.

    I also think your “Tam” example is very typical in the workplace. More often than not people are frustrated at themselves, rather than others, but generally fail to see it.

    Throughly enjoyed reading this Tom (or shal I call you Tam, LOL). Great job.

    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your detailed comment as always. I love your comments because they help so many people and I am really pleased that you thoroughly enjoyed reading my article.

      I agree with your thoughts on herd mentality and people just following the loudest negative person. I was one of those followers in the past and I just thought that was the way it was. But, this is something we must challenge and not just follow the ringleader.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. Great article with valuable information.
    Negative attitudes start from negative thoughts. We can relate better with others when we develop positive thoughts and attitudes.

    1. Hi Muslimah,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found this a great article.

      If we can change our negative attitude and negative thoughts to a positive attitude and positive thoughts then it can be life changing.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. In a former life, I used to be a computer programmer, first as an employee and latterly as a self-employed contractor. As an employee, I could be bossed around by a bad team leader and, in one case, I got fired for pushing back. As a contractor, I could dictate terms of a working relationship. In one case, I actually was hired as a contractor for a company I’d formerly worked with as an employee and had to deal with the same management people.

    As a contractor, I wasn’t quite seen as an equal but definitely as someone with more power and leverage than their regular employees.

    It was an interesting lesson in how people’s emotions play into their interactions based on where you appear to be in their hierarchy.

    Rather than relating to an employee as another human who has needs, desires, problems and foibles, employees were seen as disposable cogs in a machine. It was almost as if “management” were acting in a psychopathic way towards unimportant things in their world.

    As a contractor, I had value and power. If they got on my wrong side, I could pull the plug on a contract or appeal to a higher authority, putting them in a position of weakness.

    The problem with these managers is that they never received proper management training. They were elevated to a position where they were no longer competent.

    While some people have natural social skills that allow them to become exemplary leaders, most don’t have those skills. They need to be taught. And part of that training ought to be about how to handle and control emotions – their own as well as those of someone who works for or with them.

    Not in a controlling, negatively manipulative manner, but in being able to defuse tense situations, see things from another’s perspective and be able to make compromises to help that person out.

    As your own example with Tam illustrates, engaging with people as people and not as cogs can work wonders for a person’s sense of self-worth and a team at large.

    It’s just a shame that most companies, from what I can see, don’t see value in proper management training. But, then again, these companies and their managers often don’t recognise that their real assets are their employees, not the equipment they use or the building they work in.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thank you for your extremely detailed comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I really appreciate you sharing your expereinces over your career. There will be people who will be reading this article who will be able to relate to you and hopefully learn from your expereinces, just as much as they learn from mine.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  15. Tom, thank you for your post. I think it can be really enlightening for many people, in particular, it would be more than nice if some HR is going to read it-;)
    It can really save some of their time and some of the nerves of the employees because I can4t nothing but agree with you that emotions are more important than skills9 as those you can easily gain if your emotions are alright)
    Experience out of my latest and hopefully, it will really be my last employment forever, was that we had to work with a guy who was pissing everyone off. Unhelpful, cruel, and with old methods, his colleagues were revealed when he was fired….All this because he was hired according to his 20 years of experience. Great post.

    1. Hi Julius,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you think this is a great article.

      I agree that is more HR people read my articles, they could learn a lot more and maybe do their jobs better 🙂

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  16. Hi Tom, what a fascinating article, and you are so right! Emotions, and especially frustration and anger, can do a lot of harm to a team.
    We had yesterday a team meeting because we have some aggression issues and not feeling safe in our team due to colleagues not being open. We did a kind of training in communication, and I have to say that the beginning is not bad. Some colleagues are angry and frustrated and negatively transferring these emotions to others.
    It has the most time to do with ourselves, not with the others. If we can recognize this, we have the key to change feelings.
    We are all still little children confronted with our former feelings of anger, frustration, fear, guilt, impotence, etc. These feelings we carry with us during our lives. If we don’t work on them and see where they are coming from, we will never change those feelings. You have written such a great article! Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Sylvia,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this a fascinating article.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences from your very recent team meeting. I have had team meetings very similar, in fact almost all of our team meetings are on high emotion. There will be a lot of people who read this who will be able to relate to you and hopefully learn from your expereinces too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  17. I’m really glad companies are focusing on the mental health and well being of their employees as opposed to just focusing on their competence. By focusing on people’s character, their ability to control their emotions and express them appropriately, you reduce the stress in the work environment due to bad behavior – which leads to strained relationships. I love the example you gave with Tom, who assumed no one would listen to him. He had it all wrong and projected his anger and lack of self-worth onto his teammates. Great article.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this a great article, means a lot to me.

      Character is what we must develop when mastering our emotions. More organisations need to help their people focus on character aswell as competency.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  18. Hi Tom,

    A valuable piece of advice, by clearly identifying our feelings and recategorizing emotions one can reduce suffering and improve well-being.

    I feel its not what happens to us, but how we react or respond that has an adverse effect on our behavior it’s in our hands to take control over life and master all our emotions. I

    remember the famous quotes that says “Emotions are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf” which has a deep meaning that is whatever we are at present is all about choices we had made and choices we will make.

    It’s so important to build our emotional fortress in order to strengthen resilience during tough times. Appreciate you for sharing such quality and life-changing content.

    Thanks for infor.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this valuable.

      How we react in certain situations is so important, I completely agree with you. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts as there will be many people who can relate to you and learn from you too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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