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8 Negative Emotions in the Workplace and How Managers Can Deal with Them

8 Negative Emotions in the Workplace and How Managers Can Deal with Them

With so much pressure to succeed, it's easy for negative emotions to take hold in the workplace. From anger to frustration, emotions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as job insecurity, workload, or interpersonal conflict. When emotions run high, managers need to be equipped to deal with them, as they can often derail productivity and cause tension among coworkers. In this blog post, we will discuss eight negative emotions that are commonly seen in the workplace, as well as how managers can deal with them effectively and create more well being at work.

How Emotions Can Affect Attitudes and Behaviours of an Employee in the Workplace

It's no secret that emotions can have a profound effect on our attitudes and behaviours. And this is especially true in the workplace, where the stakes are often high and the pressure to perform can be intense. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger can lead to all sorts of problems in the workplace, including decreased productivity, absenteeism, and even sabotage. Understanding this might seem obvious to some people but it's critical for managers if they want their team to excel and feel comfortable enough with their leader to not only show up, but thrive too.

Impact of Negative Emotions in the Workplace

When it comes to work life, it's impossible to completely avoid negative emotions, however, it is crucial to try to limit their impact. Not only can they make it difficult to concentrate or be productive, but they can also damage relationships with co-workers. Here are some of the areas where such emotions can have a negative impact on employee well being:

  • Decreased productivity. When employees' mental health isn't at its best, it can be hard to muster up the energy or motivation to do their best work. This can lead to poorer quality work, missed deadlines, and increased stress levels. Additionally, not knowing how to manage negativity can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, which can lead to even more negative emotions.
  • Absenteeism. There is a strong link between negative emotional states and absenteeism. Mental health issues have been shown to negatively impact employee health - if people feel physically unwell as a result of feeling negatively, they may not be able come into work.
  • Employee turnover. Dealing with negative feelings in an organisation can be far-reaching. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials and 81% of Gen Zers have left their jobs for mental health reasons in 2021.
  • Hostile work environment. When employees feel upset, angry and don't manage negative emotions well, they may cooperate less with others and follow company rules less often. There's also an increased chance that these feelings will lead to emotional outbursts or even violence. When employees are frustrated, they may be more likely to make errors or take shortcuts, which can lead to accidents or mistakes.

8 Most Common Negative Workplace Emotions

Research has shown that the average person experiences more negative than positive emotions at work.  Here are the eight most common negative emotions experienced in the workplace, along with some tips on developing emotional intelligence and managing emotions:


Workplace aggression can manifest itself in many ways. It may be overt, such as yelling or physical aggression, or more subtle, such as micromanaging or passive-aggressive comments. Aggression can also be directed at specific individuals or groups, or it can be generalised hostility. Regardless of how it manifests itself, aggression in the workplace is a serious problem that can have a negative impact on morale, productivity, and safety. If left unchecked, aggression can lead to violence and even sexual harassment or assault. 

It is essential for managers to be aware of the signs of aggression and take steps to prevent it from occurring. This may involve having a conversation with the employee to identify the source of the aggression and find strategies to resolve it. One of them could be assisting employees with helping them develop their emotion regulation ability. Deep breathing exercises have been shown to reduce anger and calm the nervous system. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to involve other members of staff, such as human resources or security. If the aggression cannot be resolved, the employee may need to be removed from the workplace.


Stress is the body's response to any demand placed on it. When we perceive a threat, our "fight or flight" response increases our heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Over time, if not managed, it can take a toll on our minds and bodies alike. According to the World Health Organization, stress leads employees into an emotional dip when they are asked to do things that exceed their knowledge, abilities and coping skills, when they are faced with budget cuts or when they lack communication and support from peers and supervisors.

Once the sources of stress in the workplace have been identified, there are a number of strategies managers can use to mitigate its effects. Team members could be involved in stress-management webinars, wellness tips and programs or yoga classes. For example, a business could provide employees with unlimited access to wellness apps. Managers should make sure nobody is overworking themselves and encourage co-workers to engage in hobbies they can pursue with each other during their free hours. Providing regular positive feedback and helping employees develop a support network can lead to higher happiness levels, less self-doubt and increased confidence.


Anger that many people feel at work is a common response to stress. Workplace anger can be caused by irritation, outrage or feelings of injustice and it often leads workers to take an expulsive approach in trying to fix what's going wrong which could include becoming more destructive than necessary with their actions. Therefore, emotional labor, which stands for the process of managing emotions is crucial for managers to understand.

Employees may need assistance with identifying their triggers. Understanding who and what makes employees angry can prevent employees experience full-on emotional outbursts. A lot of people are quick on responding to anger by rationalising it or blaming others rather than simply acknowledging the validity of their emotions. Encourage your employees to find healthy ways of releasing or disarming their anger in the most self-respecting manner possible – it could be acknowledging their feelings without judgement or channelling anger into physical exercise.


According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, general anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US. With such a high prevalence, it's not surprising that workplace anxiety is also common. Employee anxiety may occur due to job insecurity, unrealistic workloads, or conflict with co-workers. In some cases, anxiety can even be caused by the physical environment, such as fluorescent lighting or a noisy open office. Symptoms of anxiety, such as racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating, can make it difficult to complete tasks or interact with others. Moreover, anxious employees may be more likely to call in sick or take advantage of work-from-home policies.

As a manager, it is important to be aware of the signs of anxiety in the workplace and take steps to support employees who are struggling. The practice of having open conversations and flexible work arrangements can help employees feel supported and engaged. In addition, anxiety should be confronted head on. If your employees have a fear of public speaking - encourage them to sign up for a public speaking class. Publicly facing vulnerability can be scary at first but it's what your employee might need to have a chance of success at overcoming shyness.


The definition of pessimism is the tendency to expect the worst and prepare for it. It's an outlook that can be adaptive in some circumstances, but too much predictive behaviour could lead someone into self-fulfilling prophecies about their own inevitable failure. Pessimism in the workplace can lead to negative thinking, which can in turn impact productivity and morale. Additionally, pessimism can be contagious, and it can quickly spread throughout a work environment. If left unchecked, it can result in a toxic work culture.

Complaints often come from someone craving connection and compassion. In this case, managers should let know their employees they care about their concerns, but don't engage any more than this. For example, managers could say: "I'm sorry to hear you're struggling. I can't offer any more suggestions on how we might help with this problem, but please know that if it gets too much, let me know and maybe someone else will be able come up with something. I have to focus on my work right now."


Workplace isolation can manifest itself in a number of ways. It may affect remote workers, but it's also possible for office workers to feel alone in their workspace if they don't have enough contact and connection outside of work hours. It can be feeling of being the only one who is struggling with a particular issue, or feeling not valued or not a part of the "in-crowd." Whatever form it takes, isolation can have a negative impact on job performance and satisfaction. Common causes for isolation include personal issues, toxic company culture, work setup and demographics.

Conducting surveys and asking for feedback regarding workplace isolation is a great way to see where employees stand. From there, employers can analyse data responses collected and identify gaps that need to be addressed. Social gatherings and team building activities are a great way for employees to meet colleagues and gather company news updates in an engaging environment. A monthly lunch out or virtual meeting can connect co-workers both working at the office as well remotely. To create a type of environment where workers contribute their best efforts towards company success; employers should make sure there aren't any negative behaviours present such as bullying or harassment.


Employee burnout has been a huge problem for years. The World Health Organisation defines it as being caused by stress and not managed well enough, leading to feeling like you cannot do anything right; having less enthusiasm about going into work every day because your job feels fruitless or unappreciated and reduced productivity.

There are steps managers can take to help employees deal with burnout. One way is to encourage them to take breaks throughout the day, even if it's just a few minutes. They should create an environment where everyone can openly discuss their workload and concerns. Lastly, they should offer support and understanding - let employees know that they understand how challenging work can be. Employers across the US are starting to recognise post-pandemic burnout in their staff. Companies such as Bumble, LinkedIn, PepsiCo and Mozilla introduced measures that provided employees with more paid time off upon return to their workplaces following the pandemic.


Depression is more than just feeling blue or down in the dumps for a few days. It is a serious illness that can have a significant impact on an individual's personal life and ability to perform their job. Symptoms of depression at work include feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness; struggling to concentrate or make decisions; and changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Workplace depression numbers are staggering. 3% percent of total short term disabilities are due to depressive disorders; 76% of those cases are in female employees. If left untreated, depression at work can lead to job loss, financial problems, and even suicide.

The first step that a business can take to help an employee who may be dealing with depression is to learn about the disorder. A manager may not be able to eliminate all of the stressors in their employee’s life, but they can try to lighten their workload where possible. This may mean delegation of tasks, breaking up large projects into smaller goals, or providing additional resources. If an employee is dealing with depression, they may have difficulty meeting deadlines. Don't overload them with deadlines and provide extensions if necessary.

How to Deal with an Employee Displaying Negative Emotions

Negative emotions are a normal and healthy part of the human experience. However, when they're expressed in the workplace, they can become disruptive and even damaging. If you have an employee who is regularly displaying negative feelings, use these tips to address the issue head-on:

  • Talk to the employee privately. Negative emotions should never be dealt with in public. Doing so will only make the situation worse by creating a fear of embarrassment or humiliation in the employee. Instead, schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss the issue.
  • Express your concerns in a non-judgmental way. It's important to avoid coming across as judgmental when discussing negative feelings with an employee. Otherwise, the employee will likely become defensive and the conversation will not be productive.
  • Ask the employee what's going on and how you can help. Oftentimes, negative emotions are caused by outside factors that have nothing to do with work. As such, it's important to ask the employee what's going on and see if there's anything you can do to help.

How a Manager Can Cope with Any Negative Emotions in the Workplace

Dealing with difficult emotions is never easy, but as a manager, it's important to be able to cope with them in a professional and constructive manner. By taking care of employees' emotional wellbeing, you are modelling good employee/company practices which will set a positive tone at work. Here are some tips you can use to manage employees' negative emotions:

  • Set clear expectations for how emotions should be expressed at work. Learning how to regulate your emotions is crucial. Managers should explain that employees should avoid expressing negative emotions in a way that disrupts the work environment or prevents others from doing their job. Employees should avoid using offensive language when expressing negative emotions and take some time to cool down before discussing their emotions with others.
  • Help the employee develop a positive outlook and healthy coping mechanisms. Encourage the employee to express their emotions in a healthy way. Show them how to use journaling as a way to vent their emotions, or help them to find a hobby that brings them joy. Some positive coping mechanisms. could include things like deep breathing exercises, visualisation, or positive self-talk. Additionally, model positive behaviour and emotional regulation for the employee. If you can show them that it is possible to be happy and successful at work, they may be more likely to try and emulate that behaviour.
  • Encourage the employee to seek professional help if needed. If the employee is having difficulty coping with their emotions, it may be necessary to encourage them to seek professional help. This could involve providing them with information about counselling or therapy services, or even assisting them in making an appointment.
  • Be prepared to take disciplinary action if necessary. If you have an employee who is regularly displaying negative emotions, it's important to address the issue head-on. You can help the employee get back on track and prevent his or her emotions from impacting the workplace. However, if the employee does not improve after counselling and coaching, you may need to take disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
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