It’s Just Business: 5 Ways You’re Letting Your Feelings Hold You Back

Not every day can be filled with unicorns and roses. But if your general attitude about work is “meh,” or if you’ve been advised your emotions are getting in the way of professional success, you might want to reevaluate. Are you letting your feelings hold you back at work?



The most common negative emotions experienced in workplaces are frustration, worry, anger, dislike, and disappointment. Allowing your emotions in any of these areas to overshadow your other qualifications is something that can sneak up on you. You may not even realize it’s happening. The line between being vulnerable and being professional can be difficult to navigate. But if you notice your coworkers seem to be avoiding you, or if your boss sits you down for a frank chat, do some soul-searching to see if you’re in one of the following emotional danger zones.

1. Being too pessimistic

Not everyone is an optimist, and that’s OK. But if you lean toward seeing the glass as always half-empty, you may have a propensity to complain too much. A bit of kvetching can be a good way to blow off steam—but too much, and you’ll find yourself the office Eeyore whom people work hard to avoid.

What you can do: Try keeping a gratitude journal, and record even the most mundane blessings in your life—e.g., do you really love the chips available in the vending machine? That is something to be happy about. Once you start looking for the good in situations, your overall mindset will improve.

2. Suffering from imposter syndrome

Do you experience consistent self-doubt, or are you worried about being exposed as a fraud, no matter how experienced or accomplished you are in your field? You may be suffering from imposter syndrome, which, according to Psychology Today, affects up to 30 percent of high achievers. Imposter syndrome is rooted in fear of making a mistake, and it can prevent you from seeking that promotion or taking a creative risk.

What you can do: Practice being confident, and fake it until you make it. A good place to start is by simply saying “thank you” when someone pays you a compliment. You don’t need to brush it off or demean the sentiment with a self-deprecating remark. Say thanks and act like you deserve it—because you do!

3. Overreacting to an emotional trigger

At certain times in life, such as when you’re grieving, emotional outbursts are more socially acceptable. In general, though, you are expected to control your own emotional state. If you cannot, your volatility may cause both peers and supervisors to question your fitness for a position.

What you can do: Learn about the two types of emotional regulation: suppression and reappraisal. Both can be useful. “Suppression” doesn’t mean never dealing with one’s feelings; rather, it can mean distracting oneself until you have the space and energy to fully process your emotions. “Emotional reappraisal” is the art of changing how you view something to successfully process your feelings. Mindfulness techniques can help in this area.

4. Being resistant to change

Change is difficult. We’re not going to deny that. But you don’t want to be known as the stick in the mud who is resistant to change. If you catch yourself saying, “But we’ve always done it this way,” it’s time to shake things up.

What you can do: Begin shifting your routine. Try an alternate route to work. Bring something different for lunch. Buy some new outfits. Once you see that change is OK and can even be enjoyable, you’ll feel more agreeable about trying something new at the office.

5. Letting personal stressors interfere at work (and letting work stressors interfere at home)

Far too many of us have poor boundaries between work and home, especially after so many worked remotely for multiple years. You may have found yourself sleeping just steps from your home workstation—and it’s easy to knock out just a few more emails late at night. Similarly, if you can’t shake your work stress, you are not bringing your best home to your family.

What you can do: Strive to use your travel time to and from work as your opportunity to reset and fully immerse yourself in your destination.

These suggestions are for self-help only. If you think there is even a small chance you may be suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder, please seek help from a mental health professional.

The trusted source for DC's Employers

Sign up and post a job now

Post a job today

Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market