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Emotional Intelligence

Managing Your Emotions in the Workplace

We often think of various emotions as being either positive or negative. Consequently, we usually judge love, happiness or joy to be ‘good’ emotions, while considering anger, guilt or fear to be ‘bad.’ Although this distinction may be appropriate in particular circumstances, it is often more useful to assess the positive and negative qualities of emotions in terms of their consequences (or within the context in which they occur). For example, ‘fear’ can be considered a ‘good’ emotion when it promotes or assists our survival by helping us to anticipate danger. Similarly, the expression of joy or pleasure at someone else’s suffering or pain should probably be considered as a negative emotion.

A growing body of literature suggests that moods and emotions play a central role in providing this context. What distinguishes moods from emotions is their intensity. Moods are time pervasive and generalized feeling states that are not tied to the events or circumstances, which may have caused the mood in the first place. Moods are relatively low intensity feelings, which do not interrupt ongoing activities. Emotions are high intensity feelings that are triggered by specific stimuli (either internal or external to the individual), demand attention and interrupt cognitive processes and behaviors. However, emotions tend to be more fleeting than moods because of their intensity. Emotions often feed into moods so that, once the intensity of an emotion subsides it lingers on in the form of a less intense feeling or mood.

Emotions have been shown to influence the judgments that people make, material recalled from memory, attributions for success and failure, creativity and inductive and deductive reasoning. When people are in positive moods for example, their perceptions and evaluations are likely to be more favorable, they are more prone to remember positive information, they are more self-assured, they are more likely to take credit for successes and avoid blame for failures and they are more helpful to others. Positive moods have often been found to enhance flexibility when leading other people, facilitating creativity and performing inductive reasoning. Conversely, negative moods may foster better deductive reasoning and more critical and comprehensive evaluations of problems. The emotions are therefore very powerful contextual shapers of our behavior.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Emotional Intelligence: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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