Emotions at Work

Why and when to listen to your emotions at work.

Photo by Guy Kawasaki from Pexels

I recently watched an episode of Suits, where a young lawyer yelled at a client, a sued entrepreneur.

Out of the meeting, the lawyer feared that his boss — who was with him at the meeting — would blame him for his lack of self-control. On the contrary, his boss congratulated him for finally having found the proper grit and urged him to remember the anger during the preparation of the prosecution and the trial itself.

Bad advice.

It was fiction, okay, but things went wrong and so would probably have gone in reality.

The boss had reasons himself for this slip, and then the authors of the series fixed things for the best. But in your reality, there are no authors to fix things. Once some things are broken, it’s hard to repair.

When are emotions a good ally at work? And when not?

Emotions are a bad why

There are many good reasons to listen to your emotions, to pander them, to raise them. To use them.

But they are never a good reason to do anything, at work.

Doing something because of your anger, resentment, fear, desire, and so on, it’s a waste of time and opportunities, at best. Often, it’s an announced failure.


Because emotions were once meant to tell a Flintstone to be afraid of the T-Rex, and it may take some other million years, to evolve emotions up to not fear a bear market. Or it may take the neurons of Warren Buffet. Or years of training and lost money.

Emotions are not good at math, nor are patient. Nor like details. Nor know that someone else is just waiting for your wrong step, and maybe has also pushed you there, exploiting your emotions.

Emotions like ballparking, like to associate without discrimination. Emotions feed on memories, on instincts, on biases, on expectations.

Doing anything at work driven by emotions just means that you’re not basing on facts, you’re not evaluating, you’re not reasoning, you’re not sticking at goals and priorities, you’re not making your choices explicit, you don’t see beyond what attracts or pushes you. It means that you are unbalanced, biased, distracted, exposed.

You will be unprepared and likely misguided.

Emotions are always a bad idea to follow, at work. They are never the right reason to do something.

Nevertheless, they’re good and faithful allies.

Emotions are part of your sixth sense

Emotions do not come out of nothing. There are reasons for them to project movies in your mind all day.

Emotions recall when someone failed you. They know what you want deep down. They know that you are not in control. They know that someone is forcing you.

Intellect is considered the tool of rational decisions.


Nobody knows everything. Nobody is objective. Nobody can plan in every detail. Nobody knows the future. Nobody’s intellect is unbiased.

Data are considered the foundation of objective decisions.


You may see the data you want. You don’t know the missing data, and often you don’t even know that some important data are missing. Data are too often alibis.

Intellect, data, facts, have a fundamental role in decisions indeed. You need to trust minds and findings. They are the most effective tool that you have.

You may want to decide based on explicit knowledge, prioritization, reasoning, and planning. But at some point, you have to guess, or to decide where to investigate, or to stick to your values.

Emotions tell you that you are in a corner and don’t want to be there. Emotions tell you that you are pushed. Emotions tell you that you want more. Emotions tell you that you need some courage.

Emotions strictly collaborate with your instincts and intuition, but are more connected with your self at a general and social level.

Your emotions know all of you, and your history. They can be wrong, and short-sighted, but they speak for a reason, and faster than your intellect.

You should know that reason, then decide if that reason is right or wrong.

Emotions only want to protect you and give you the best. Ever.

Emotions may want something back when it’s impossible and useless. But they do so because they want the best for you.

Emotions can make you waste time. As friends do, sometimes. And you listen to them and then tell them: “Hey bro, I’ve things to do!”

Emotions can also recall your principles and values. They’re not just able to dramatize at the sight of a T-Rex, or to panic at the sight of the iPhone slipping from your hands. They know to do more.

Beyond instincts, emotions may tell your why as a person. And you are, a person. Even at work.


It may need some courage, to tell your boss that you just collided his or her car in the parking.

You may listen to fear, or you can boost your confidence and go straight to the fact.

The same when staring a difficult project. You need a rational decision, but you also need to listen to your guts, and get a boost. Pigs don’t fly, unless you are very motivated and your emotions aim at your huge goals.

Emotions can also keep you going, and keep your whole being aligned with your mission.

Workout music may help you squeeze a further rep. Or anger can keep you awake preparing the documents. Just be careful that anger is just a substitute for caffeine and doesn’t dictate what you write.

A positive smile or a negative grunt. It’s up to you to decide.

I usually go for a grunt. Anyone has their own way to exploit emotions. Or to stave off timewasters.

The others

Emotional intelligence is the most important tool at work for managing relationships. And you can’t have emotional intelligence without emotions.

You need to understand the emotions of the others to realize, to motivate, to negotiate, to persuade, to foresee.

Without empathy, you will be either an asshole or a ghost.

Also, you need to understand why your emotions are aroused from the others. Sometimes, those emotions are intentionally pushed, as it may happen in negotiations. Or with that wily colleague.

If you understand emotions, you let them tell you something about what’s happening, and you have a better chance of not being controlled, by them or by the environment. If some emotions are frequent, they may tell you something about an unbalanced attitude, about something to address, or about a toxic environment.

In a nutshell…

Emotions, at work, are among your best friends. Not smart, but faithful. They will always care about you.

Never do something because emotions told you so.

But always listen to them.

Spread love. Or growls. It depends.