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The Ultimate Guide for Managing Anger, Stress and Burnout

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Stress in the workplace has been proven to play a big role in employee burnout, absenteeism & retention issues and there are several contributing factors that have already been identified.

Recent research, however, added more: surface acting and an employee’s tendency to easily swing from one emotional state to another can contribute to psychological and physical fatigue.

Researchers Daniel Beal and his team, studied how showing emotions you don’t really feel - i.e., surface acting, which is a requirement in most customer service jobs - plus the tendency to easily shift from one emotion to another, can lead to stress and fatigue.

They used 64 restaurant servers (waiters) for their research and monitored them over 10 shifts. The participants were asked to complete a short online questionnaire on their emotions and behaviours at four stages: during the start of their shift, prior to the rush hour, after the rush hour and at the end of their shift.

The questionnaire focused on any surface acting they had carried out, had them measure their fatigue and stress levels and asked them to rate their emotional states.

The latter was used by the researchers to determine "affect spin” or how they swung from one emotional state to another. The participants were identified as "high spin” if they showed a range of emotions in one particular shift and "low spin” if they were more emotionally stable.

The researchers were interested in the level of fatigue that participants felt after their shifts and how it was affected by their emotional labour, caused by any surface acting they had carried out and their affect spin.

The results of the research confirmed Daniel Beal and his team’s theory that the more the participants performed surface acting, the more they felt fatigued both psychologically and physically as they forced themselves to show emotions that they were not really feeling.

They also discovered that high spin employees - those who were able to shift more easily from one emotional state to another (i.e., from joy to anger) - were more stressed when they used surface acting than those who were more consistent in their emotions.

Results also showed that high spin individuals, even though they’re more prone to stress, coped with stress better. Unfortunately, they still ended up more fatigued than the other participants.

The EBW View

This research provides an interesting insight into why it is important to use Emotional Intelligence when managing staff.

Fortunately, emotional labour, burnout and fatigue caused by surface acting and affect spin can be prevented in the workplace by teaching both employees and managers how to develop their Business Emotional Intelligence so they can manage their emotions and the emotions of the people around them.

And the good news is that dealing with others' emotions and the behaviours that result from them, need not be difficult or expensive. Here are some tips on how to manage staff who deal with emotional situations and behaviours in the workplace:

Tip 1 - Listening and not jumping in.

Pause before responding to a situation and then respond by feeding back what you have understood. Listen rather than offering advice, solving the problem for them, intellectualising, ridiculing, disagreeing, pacifying, relating similar stories ... and so on.

Tip 2 – Wait, and then wait some more

When you are "getting along" talk about what happens when they are outside their comfort zone or stressed.

Tip 3- Comment on what you've noticed.

Without judgement or complaint comment on what you've noticed. For example, "I've noticed you are quiet at the moment, how are you feeling?" rather than a challenging question, "So what's wrong with you?"

Tip 4 - Speak Gently.

Speak with authentic kindness. Have a softened, pleasant tone of voice, a clear voice, an easy rate of speech - not harsh, tense, whiny or fast. Sound quiet, calm and patient and genuine. Don’t let your response escalate the situation.

Tip 5 - Don't push for a response.

If they don't say much in response to you, don't hound them for an explanation about their emotions.

Tip 6 - Demonstrate an attitude of wanting to listen to them. 

Put aside your own issues for now. Express words of support, but never give promises you can’t fulfil.

Using these tips especially when we feel emotionally charged or fatigued may be difficult at first because they involve changing ingrained habits and attitudes that we have used to control our emotions and limit our Business Emotional Intelligence (Business EQ).

However, once you start you will see benefits manifest in the workplace.

Discover how EBW Business EQ tools can be used to manage emotions, reduce anger, stress and burnout contact the EBW Emotional Intelligence team using this link


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The EBW Global Emotional Intelligence System is a unique assessment and development tool for Managers, Executive Coaches, HR experts and Psychologists.

Based on over 20 years of worldwide use and research, it enables you to get leaders and teams to understand why they behave the way they do and use a highly effective 10 step framework to improve their occupational performance.

With a practitioner's network based on 6 continents, all of whom are licensed to use the EBW System, we guarantee the EBW Emotional Intelligence approach empowers leaders and teams to transform themselves and their organisations. 


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