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How to handle workplace emotions better than The Apprentice candidates

7 Mins

This Apprentice is currently back on our TV screens, with the latest batch of hotshot hopefuls vying to impress Lord Sugar. While the show isn’t always the finest example of best practice in the workplace, there is still plenty we can learn in terms of workplace emotions and the dos and don’ts of how to behave in business.

In typical dramatic fashion, there’s potentially been more tears and tantrums in the first half of this series than any other in it’s entirety. There’s been plenty of crossed words, arguments and emotional breakdowns and the results? Usually failure all round. As Lord Sugar delicately told one unfortunate team captain in week two: “You cracked up.”

But seeing how the teams – or more aptly don’t respond – to their respective meltdowns is a valuable lesson in itself. Unless you can effectively deal with workplace emotions, then teams will not be able to work successfully together to achieve their goals. In fact, one contestant who narrowly avoided the fatal finger from Lord Sugar summed it up pretty well, stating: “If the team’s not functioning, you’re not going to get the result you want.”

Of course, it’s almost impossible to leave your emotions at the door when you step into work each day. With that in mind, it is important to speak with business leaders and HR experts from a range of companies and industries to find out their top tips for how best to deal with emotion in the workplace.

Don’t be afraid of differences of opinion

Talented staff are sure to have strong opinions, but you can’t expect everybody to agree all the time. You shouldn’t be afraid of this, but instead learn to embrace a culture of healthy debate, said Jonathan Richards, CEO of breatheHR, a HR software service used by more than 1,500 SMEs.

“It’s inevitable that even the happiest of workplaces will experience tension amongst the team and it’s essential that you don’t run away from it. In fact I’d go as far as to say that a fear of conflict is bad for a team. It’s inevitable when people are passionate about things that opinions can collide,” added Richards.

“The important thing is how you handle it, my approach is to remain unbiased and give those involved the opportunity to air their views, discuss the issue calmly and work towards a solution. The team will emerge stronger and more able to turn conflict into debate.”

Respect is essential in any situation

Respect should be embedded into any modern organisation, at every level of the business. This applies to how you communicate with colleagues, clients and customers – respect is something that has to be both demonstrated and earned, and your workplace will be all the better for it.

The tone is often set during the recruitment process, according to Victoria Brown, managing director of High Performance Consultancy. “In my experience, the core values of a business are the guiding principles that dictate behaviour and action,” Victoria explains. “‘Respect’ is often a value that organisations I work with adopt.”

“Tackling fall-outs and tantrums within the workplace becomes far more manageable when they can use techniques such as team building exercises that link back to this value. I always advise clients to embrace their values throughout the whole of their business, including the recruitment process. A company should place more importance on ensuring a candidate has the correct values as opposed to skills match.”

Make decisions based on business reasons, not emotions

Not everybody can maintain a cool head at all times, but it is still important to keep your workplace emotions in check when it comes to important business decisions. It’s important to recognise when a situation might arise where your commercial judgement could be clouded by personal feelings – and if you see this happening, it might be time to take a step back. Learning how to maintain objectivity is essential when it comes to not letting emotions affect productivity, explained Raj Patel, head of sales at Chillisauce.

“Decisions need to be based on business reasons and not personal ones,” explained Patel. “Working in a business requires you to have a clear head and an objective outlook. The decisions made should be based on achieving operational success and developing a productive workforce with a positive morale.”

Be willing to listen when workplace emotions run high

Nothing creates awkwardness quite like tears at work, whether you’re the one crying or just the one witnessing it. But don’t just ignore it, it’s important to address what is causing the tears, commented Martine Robins, owner of The HR Dept Woking, providing outsourced HR support for SMEs.

“Many people feel uncomfortable if someone becomes tearful particularly in a work environment,” she said. “If you are a manager of someone who gets tearful very easily, you need to understand how best to manage that individual. Understand the reason for tears – whether it’s frustration or sensitivity to situations – and ensure that the individual learns some strategies to help them cope. Again, the effects of not listening and trying to resolve it can cause resentment.”

James Diment is head of corporate at team building events company Chillisauce.

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