Feb 3, 2023

Leading your Emotions at Work

The buzzy beep halted the entire boarding line. The gate agent kindly asked the woman, “Are you traveling with him?”


“Oh, good. He scanned your boarding pass.”

The woman rounded on him, “You idiot.”

At first, I thought she was teasing her traveling companion. Just playful banter.

But after the gate agent quickly solved the issue, she continued to berate him all the way down the jet bridge.

So. No. Not playful banter.

Now, I don’t know what their relationship is like. I have a scene of this moment. I don’t know what happens in the entire movie of their life.

But in that moment, her vocabulary, her persistence, her biting tone cut at his dignity and degraded his humanity.

I could go on for a while about dehumanizing language, but I think the deep lesson here is the problem of emotional deflection. Deflection will destroy your leadership and your team.

If I were to guess, the woman was a little embarrassed, definitely annoyed, and possibly anxious.

And rather than name those emotions, feel them, and allow them to pass through (that’s healthy emotional regulation), she pushed them out to someone else.

Deflection will destroy your leadership and your team.

Three big things go wrong when we do this (because I’ve done it, and you’ve done it):

1. Your feelings stay anyway.
It doesn’t actually get rid of your feelings. Those emotions are now just stuck in your body. And they pile up and pile up and cause greater stress.

2. Trust erodes
Whatever the relationship: boss, coworker, spouse, friend. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and team.

3. Healthy function decreases.
Meaning you’re not as productive in your teamwork. Your communication suffers. Conflict increases. Satisfaction and happiness decrease. Employee engagement plummets, and turnover spikes.

When you don’t take responsibility for your own emotions, you stay trapped in stress, and the ripple effects are severe.

Taking Ownership

Here’s what you can do instead:

Practice emotional regulation.

In others words: Own your own emotions and feel them.

My favorite practice for regulating emotions:

Name. Rate. Find.

Accurately name the emotions. (Download this list of 120 emotions words. I keep them posted on our fridge and my desk. I need them every day!)

Give the feeling a rating from 1 to 10. How intense is the feeling? You can also do rainbow colors. From ultraviolet to infrared.


Where do you feel it in your body? Is it your stomach? Behind your ears? In your jaw? Your chest? Locate the feeling.

This process can take all of 8 seconds. The more intense the emotion, the longer it may take.

So if I were to offer the woman at the gate an opportunity to do this again, I would encourage her to stay quiet and follow name, rate, find.

I bet she would have realized this was not an actual problem. (I mean the gate agent had us on our way in less than 20 seconds). Her emotions were valid, and she was responsible for them. Blaming and deflection just made the walk down the jet bridge and getting settled on the plane more uncomfortable, challenging, and inefficient than it needed to be.

Your team needs you as the leader to lead your own emotions. Your team’s trust, productivity, and engagement are all at stake.

Just visualize for a minute what this change could create for you and your team. Reduced stress. Greater trust. Increased productivity. Not to mention more joy. What would that feel like?!

Your team needs you as the leader to lead your own emotions. Your team’s trust, productivity, and engagement are all at stake.

You can absolutely do this.




And I’d love to hear about it. Share this on social and tell me how it goes!



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