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Professionalism and Emotions Don't Mix?

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

bored professional women

In today's digital world, your personal brand story must reflect your professionalism because whether we receive a promotion or a pink slip can be contingent on how leadership perceives our behavior, image, and the quality of our work, all of which define our professional image.

Many of us get tripped up by our emotions and behave in a manner that causes a negative consequence we weren't expecting. Professionals show up and do the job no matter how they feel. This expectation can give us the impression that professionals are robots instead of emotional, flawed humans.

The personal branding advice telling us we need to be authentic, honest, and real can have long-reaching consequences in our professional lives because people are still human. And humans are judgemental, unforgiving, quick to dismiss and slow to trust. We want to believe people will give us the doubt and help us when we are hurt because they are caring individuals.

Sure, your boss does care about you as a person. However, they still have a job to do, targets to hit, and people holding them accountable for the team's productivity.

To succeed in an office environment, you need to understand your emotions, your behaviors, and those of others.

What is in this article about professionalism and emotions:

Robot professional removes emotion
You Don't Have to be a Robot at Work

Unemotional but Not too Unemotional

Behaviors based on our feelings will impact our success because how we interact with others is vital to how those who hold power to hire, fire, and promote will perceive our value over the long term.

Professionals walk a fine line between showing their personality and keeping their emotions in check. They do this by embracing positive emotions and appropriately dealing with negative emotions. When someone asks a professional, "How are the kids?" They will share just enough information to create a connection with the person, but not too much information. They mention what they need to share, the positive things, and keep the rest private.

Professionals exhibit a high degree of emotional intelligence by considering the emotions and needs of others, and they don't let a bad day impact how they interact with colleagues or clients. To behave professionally, you must leave your problems in the car, no matter how upset you are about your dog being sick, the kids making bad choices, and your marriage being on the rocks. In a world of 24/7 connectivity, how does one remain professional at work when their personal problems keep showing up on their phones?

The easy answer is to leave the phone in the car's glove compartment. The realistic answer is to check personal texts after work when it is safe to have an emotional tornado rip through your life.

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Is Professionalism Changing at Work?

As much as we would like to believe the world is becoming a more caring place where employers care about the personal well-being of their employees, this is a facade because we are human.

Employers want to know the people on their payroll are stable, productive, and consistent. The more information they have about your wreck of a personal life, the less confidence they will have about your long-term ability to focus on your tasks and not disrupt the workplace.

Leave your bad mood at the door when you come to work. We all have days when we aren't feeling our best. Remember not to take it out on your boss or your co-workers.

On the other side of the coin, we can be having a great day where everything is going right, and we get overly excited; this can cause disruption and show a level of immaturity. When you land a huge account, it can be tempting to do a happy dance in the bullpen while giving high fives all around. However, you are disrupting other people from getting their work done. Just like there is a time to deal with personal issues, there are times to celebrate wins.

The Emotional Meter and Professional Image

Thinking you have to be a robot at work is a knee-jerk reaction to learning you need to be appropriate in expressing your emotions. Show your co-workers your personality, and embrace your positive emotions. Being appropriate in how you express your emotions means practicing temperance and courtesy. Do not react when others exhibit negative behaviors, refrain from saying unkind things, and be mindful of how much of yourself you share at work.

Your demeanor should exude confidence but not cockiness. Be polite and well-spoken when interacting with customers, superiors, or co-workers. You need to keep your calm, even during tense situations. Your body language and facial expressions communicate volumes, so be sure they convey the message you want others to hear.

The key is to bring your best self to work every day and leave the worst of you in the car. If you get upset, angry, or overly excited, leave the office and go for a walk to deal with these emotions alone. Then, when you return to the office, you can deal with the situation appropriately.

If you want others to see you as a professional they can relate to and like, try asking questions and listening to your co-workers. Find out about their lives, thoughts, and work instead of trying to make connections by talking about yourself. The people who make the biggest impression on others are the ones who care to listen and remain emotionally consistent. You want to be someone people can go to no matter what happens.

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Outward Professional Appearance

Professionals work on their appearance as much as they do their skill set. They always ensure they are well groomed and only come to work after looking their best. This attention to their appearance means taking care of their health and grooming. By taking care of the details, they can look calm, poised, and confident even though inside, they are an emotional hot mess.

The person who arrives at the office in a wrinkled suit and their hair needing a comb can cause those around them to feel disorganized, stressed, and emotionally unstable.

It isn't about what you wear. It is about being consistently well-kept. Are your clothes clean? Taking the time each week to ensure your clothes don't have rips, stains, and the odd smell will make looking your best easier.

Your health is reflected in your outer image, so take care of yourself inside and out. Eat healthy, go to the gym, walk, drink plenty of water, and go to the doctor for regular checkups. You will feel better, clothes will look better on you, your skin will glow, and people will take notice.

If you want to make it to the next level in your corporation, look to see what the people in those roles look like and emulate them. If you want to be the best on your team, analyze the image of those consistently hitting the top numbers, getting the best projects, and having the most respect. Sure, some people are born with natural good looks, and grace is effortless for them. However, this isn't about being the best-looking person in the room; it's about being the best you can be. It's about showing up prepared, ready to work, and emotionally stable so others trust they can always count on you.

When you feel tired, negative, and upset, the last thing you may want to do is take care of your appearance. However, you will feel better about life and yourself when you do. Take a few extra minutes; it will make a difference.

Brand Storytelling course for Professionals

Professionals are Always Learning

Professionals strive to become experts in their field, which sets them apart from the rest of the pack. To become an expert, continue your education by taking courses, attending seminars, and attaining any related professional designations. A broad set of skills, from mastering software to clearing jams from the copying machine, adds to the sense that you're an indispensable team member.

Professionals are experts at what they do, which means they are always practicing their skills and expanding their knowledge to get better than they already are. It isn't about being the best because someone will always know something you don't. It means doing the best you can do all the time.

When you prepare for any situation, you will find it easier to stay calm and consistent. This is why first responders practice their skills regularly because they need to know they can handle anything coming at them during high-stress situations. By practicing and knowing the answers to clients' questions and solutions to any problems, you will be more confident, less stressed, and more composed. Your emotional well-being will improve, and you will be a positive addition to any team.

Utilize the experts around you at work to help you improve by asking them for advice. The connections you make will aid you in the future. Ask co-workers about books they read, which courses are the best to take, and where they go to find the latest news in your industry. Learning something new and improving yourself takes little time in your week.

List of Professional Characteristics:

1. Stay calm and positive

2. Leave problems in the car

3. Don’t complain and whine

4. Stay composed at all times

5. Dress appropriately

6. Be well groomed

7. Be confident

8. Be on time

9. Be reliable

10. Don’t lie

11. Don’t gossip

12. Help others

13. Be ethical

14. Be an expert

15. Do what you say

16. Continually learn

18. Do the best job you can

19. Stay focused on the task

Keeping emotions in check and appropriate is a learned skill which takes time to perfect, keep trying.

It’s not Personal, it’s just Business.

This statement gets bounced around by those who don't want to think about how their decision affects you. When a leader says, "It's not personal; it's just business," it shows others how little they care about their team members' well-being.

Leaders who dismiss the implications for their team members using platitudes and belittling remarks will cause negative emotions. If you cannot compartmentalize the emotional from the rational, removing yourself from this workplace culture will be better for everyone. It'll make your life easier in the long run. You don't have to quit the company. Just ask to be on another team.

At times, leaders have to make decisions for the betterment of the business's bottom line, and they know that when they do, the person getting the short end of the deal won't be happy. At this point, they either really don't care about the person, or they don't know how to deal with the fallout of their decision. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they don't know how to deal with the emotions of others, so they deflect using the it's business argument.

Have you heard this statement from someone only to discover they take things personally when things don't go their way?

Happy employees, Productive Teams, Profitable Company.

Barbara Fredrickson's study of positive emotions found that individuals who express positive emotions are more open to possibilities, new skills, and new connections.

The problem in today's corporate world is the short-sightedness of some CEOs and their Boards as they try to please their investors or improve their own stock options. To cut costs, they let quality, loyal employees go because they cost too much. They either hire younger, part-time employees or heap more work on those fortunate enough to have kept their jobs, resulting in overwork, fatigue, and burnout.

There is a balance between the needs of the employees and the stock price's health. It isn't easy, and many CEOs lose sleep trying to stay on the trapeze. Yes, that leader at the top of the hierarchy, whom you think may be an ice prince or ice princess, has a heart, emotions, and needs to make tough decisions because of the pressures they feel from their boards and investors.

What are some of the things employees who experience negative emotions from the decisions of those higher up in the hierarchy make?

What are some of the things employees who experience negative emotions due to the decisions of those higher up in the hierarchy make?

Emotions are Part of Business

Feelings are part of who we are, and they are irrational. We can use our rational minds to control our emotions, but they will always be a part of every decision and action we take.

Zigarmi, D., Galloway, F.J. & Roberts, T.P., in their Recent studies on emotions in the workplace, discovered that "emotions shape intent and behavior in conjunction with cognition." They found that humans make simultaneous cognitive and emotional appraisals of a situation, which result in:

1. A sense of well-being

2. A set of intentions for the individual's future behavior

Our minds process rational thoughts and emotions simultaneously to determine if the situation is positive or negative before we decide how to act. Our minds do not separate our cognitive function from our emotional responses, and employees are affected by the pursuit of the organization's goals.

It's survival at its best - think about what it would mean if our minds only process rational thoughts without consulting emotions. What would happen over time?

  • Imagine a robot with an AI system deciding whether or not they should lay off people.

  • What if we only accessed our emotions when faced with difficult business decisions?

Take a moment to think about an event at work that left you with negative feelings

  • Can you name how you felt?

  • Are you able to define those words to understand better how you felt?

  • Why were you overwhelmed by negative emotions?

When employees experience negative emotions, whether from fear, doubt, or insecurity due to the unknown, it impacts the company's bottom line.

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How to Change Your Emotional Reaction

If you are feeling emotional at work, here are some more ideas to help you make it through the day.

As an employee, you are responsible for asking your manager thoughtful questions to determine what is happening and what the decision means for your day-to-day. Sometimes, you must be patient as information will not be readily available.

Accept what you are feeling without judgment. As Marsh Commercial UK CEO Anthony Gruppo says, "Fear comes to visit, but I don't let it stay overnight." He accepts that he feels fear, figures out why he does, and then thinks about what opportunities he'd lose if he let fear stay overnight.

Remember - Feelings are feelings, and behaviors are actions. Feel, don't act. Process your emotion, understand it, and determine if there is anything you can do to change the situation or move through the emotion.

Write down the story of what is happening at work to see the situation for what it is. If you don't feel comfortable writing about yourself, create a fictionalized character whom you put into the situation and write the scene from different points of view until you've fully processed your emotions and can move on with a greater appreciation for others.

Read a good book with a happy ending. Watch a comedy. Listen to your favorite song. Do something that will occupy your mind and allow you to shift out of the emotion by distracting your mind from wallowing. Once you've allowed yourself to experience a positive feeling, you'll have an easier time processing what happened and how you can move forward.

Thoughts, emotions, and motivation are linked and determine how people perceive, react, and choose what to do next. Pretending that feelings don't matter in business is unrealistic. Though it might make you feel better about making a decision that will negatively affect someone else, it has long-reaching results for everyone.

More Stories about Emotions,

How to control emotions and heal from trauma:

Here are some stories about how others have managed their emotions, overcome difficult times, and healed from trauma:

professionals with emotional skills

Hiring is an Emotional Skill

Hiring people is an intoxicating experience. Creating the perfect role description that is clear and captures the right attention. Casting a wide net to get as many qualified candidates into the pipeline. Wowing the short list with an engaging and thorough interview process that makes them feel like they’re the center of the universe. Getting buy-in from current team members…no red flags. Making the phone call to let the successful candidate know that she’s risen to the top of the list. Welcoming her to the team with a positively outstanding onboarding program that is the envy of the industry.

But then within a year she’s gone.

What was going to be the solution to a number of problems just walked out the door.

What happened? How did what started out so good turn out so bad? I was so utterly convinced that she was going to be successful. How did I blow it?

Make no mistake – it is important to

emotional health for professionals

How to Make Rational, NOT Emotional Decisions to Be Professional and Happy

When we make certain decisions, we feel emotional, and those emotions can get in the way of making a good decision. Instead of reacting and making a quick decision based on your emotions, take a breathe and step back. Unless a bear is wanting to eat you, the decision can wait until you are in a more rational frame of mind. Now, if the bear looks hungry - RUN... or Google what you are supposed to do when facing down a hungry bear. For this article, we are going to assume the situation that has triggered an emotional response, can be put on the back burner.

negative emotions affect professionalism

The Stories You Tell Yourself Matter to Your Happiness

I'd just launch the new affiliate program, my SEO was coming back after a brief fall down, and I was hopeful about the future...

Then just like that ... I want to quit everything and when I say everything I mean everything. I'm tired of struggling, getting nowhere, and things not working out. Due to having depression and anxiety with a brain that tells me suicide is the only way out... I am very cognisant of my emotional reactions and state of mind.

If I allowed my mind and emotions to go down the rabbit hole to the big long sleep, I'd be leaving my parent and my kids in a tough spot and I don't want to do that, so ... I have to make the choice to pull up my socks, put on those big girl panties, and do what I do to move towards a place of strength.

Some days are harder than others because at times my mind will tell me they don't care and will be happier without me in the world. Yes, my brain can lie to me and find false evidence to back up its lies... It's not a mild or situational problem.

Either I let depression control me or I control it - Today, I got back into the drivers seat.

In my tool box are stories with the right narrative and the proof to offset these lies and bring me back into reality. Now, I ... Click button to read the full article

Emotional healing for professionals

Get Your Emotions Under Control to be Professional

Easier said than done, trust me I know I've got a PhD in triggering emotional responses in both myself and others.

When I get upset, going for a walk won't help it'll only make me more agitated as I will feel like I need to be doing something to fix the issue. For me, I need to write it out so I can switch out of my emotional brain into my rational one. This is key. Figure out which activity will move you into a more rational and logical mindset.

What Helped you Heal emotionally?

Independence. I was born independent. My parents nurtured this natural quality by giving me the space to figure things out for myself. I rarely asked for help, which gave me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do without needing someone to hold my hand. I didn’t hesitate to go on long road trips by myself with my new month-old son. I didn’t think twice about going tent camping alone with my 3-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter, then made the best of things when it started to snow. When I’m faced with a problem, my first reaction is to solve the problem by myself and move things forward. Independence has helped me be successful, but it is also the reason I struggled when my life fell apart.

Stubborn tenacity. I’m a Taurus born in the year of the ox, there is no one more stubborn than I am. This can be a good thing as I keep going and eventually persevere by sheer force of will. As a business owner, my stubborn tenacity sees me through the tough times, however when things are not working and the bank account is a beautiful shade of dark red, I wonder if I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque and I’m kicking a skeleton instead of a horse. Stubborn tenacity has kept me alive during the darkest of times, but I also ended up black and blue from hitting my head on the brick wall.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal emotionally?

professional with depression

Battling Depression and Winning

There is no denying that this is a difficult time for anyone who sought support from others outside of the home, regardless of whom they live with.

Dealing with change in lifestyle is difficult even when one is excited about the changes. When a negative change is forced upon you, the ground is fertile for hopelessness and depression to take root.

This can happen at any time, not just during a Pandemic shut down. It can happen when someone you love dies, you experience divorce, your kids move out, you get fired or laid off, an investment tanks, your business goes belly up, you are in financial trouble, and when the world pushes you behind closed doors. Not all depressions are the same and it is important to understand how depressed you are before you agree to ... Read the Full Story

emotional fear keeps professionals back

We live in a world of perceived fear. You can choose to live in the emotion of fear or to take the steps to become more mindful and rational about what is really happening in your world.

Our primal minds are all about survival and when it feels uncomfortable, it spins out of control to get us to act. It feels something is wrong deep down in our gut and it wants the feeling to go away, so it cycles through problems, stressors, and regrets to try to determine the threat causing the feeling.

Has this ever happened to you? Read the full article

I was married to a psychological abuser for 20 years. Why didn’t I leave in 2002 when I first thought of leaving? Why didn’t I leave when my friends offered me a place to stay? Why didn’t I leave when he first said he wanted a divorce? Why didn’t I leave when...? The answer is fear.

I was scared of losing the privilege of being with my kids every day. They were my everything and the idea of not having them in my daily life was scary. Little did I know that they were determined to come with me and stay with me. A few years later they moved out on their own and I had to face down my fear of them not being in my daily life and of being alone in the world. Guess what - I survived.

I was scared of poverty. During the times when I thought of leaving, I didn’t have a job and no money. When I did have a job, he demanded ... Read the full Story

One afternoon at work, I heard the phone ring. I somehow managed until that day to ignore it. There was always someone at the counter who liked to answer the phone. But that day it rang where my manager and I were standing.

She gestured to me to answer it. I did it as I had been taught, “Good morning, Mariana speaks. What I can help?”

“Do you have a red [...] in stock?” asked the lady calling. I could not decipher what she was looking for in red.

So, I try again, “What are you looking for?”

She repeated over and over and all I understood what she was looking for.

When the lady realized that I did not understand, she raised her voice and said boldly, “Why do you answer the phone if you do not speak English? Pass me immediately with someone who understands me.”

I called the manager and crying I explained what had happened. After attending to the client, my manager called me into her office and told me that she could not believe I still did not know how to answer the phone. It was unacceptable, and she asked me what I thought should be done about it. I felt humiliated and very diminished. Read the full story...

No matter how you are feeling about your life, work is not the place to find help. I speak from experience and I learned these lessons the hard way. I still have many days where my emotions win and I can't bother to be professional. Each day, I promise myself to do better tomorrow and every day I get stronger and more successful.


Shannon Peel helps brands and people look their best online and off.

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