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Maintain a Positive Mood at Work

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

Manage Your Mood At Work With These Quick Tips

One morning, I frantically asked a director to help me investigate a technical error. We went back and forth for a few minutes, with the conversation abruptly ending with me saying, “NVM, thank you.” Later that day, I found out that my earlier conversation frustrated the director so much that it made him leave the office for a walk. I stood there, utterly shocked at how completely unaware I was of my actions and how my actions impacted my co-worker.

I lost my godmother unexpectedly the month before, and until that conversation, I didn’t realize how much her death continued to impact my emotions. I was completely unaware of how frantic I was being and how my actions impacted my co-workers.

I apologized to the director, found a therapist, and took some time off in order to find a way to better manage my emotions at work.

Handling emotions (particularly negative ones) at work is an ultimate test of professionalism and mental strength. Here are four ways you can become more self-aware of your emotions and properly manage your emotions and mood at work.

Know Your Triggers

I tend to be temperamental when I’m tired, hungry, or I overhear Black neighborhoods or people being referred to as ghetto. Each of these experiences results in different emotions: irritability, anxiety, or disgust. During these times, I try to limit human interaction as best as I can. For example, I send emails instead of connecting face to face, I listen to music at work to cut out people’s voices and conversations, and I also take solo lunches.

Knowing your triggers will help you be aware of when you are feeling moody so that you can get ahead of impulsive actions, outbursts, or negative/unfavorable interactions at work. This is extremely helpful when limiting human interaction is unavoidable.

Never Make a Decision When Angry

Never let your anger or a negative mood overshadow your judgment. If you are feeling angry or frustrated, take 10 seconds, a walk, or a day to recompose yourself before reacting or making a decision. When possible, try to avoid all communication until you are feeling more level-headed. Below are recommendations on how to handle an email vs in-person interaction when your emotions are getting the better of you:

  • In-person: If you feel your temper rising, try and count to 10 to calm yourself. If needed, take additional time to calm down. Politely excuse yourself from the situation and ensure that the person you will reach out with an update.

    • Email: Write out a reply and save the email to your draft. This will help you release your feelings. Re-read the draft later or the next day. For extra caution, let someone you trust take a look at it before you send it.

Alter Your Mood

It is so easy to remain in a bad mood or rut. Take positive actions to shift your attitude. This can be a go-to happy music playlist, calling a friend or family member to talk about something positive, or—my foolproof go-to—a 3-minute meditation with scented oil.

If you feel like you have become increasingly frustrated or angry at work, take a step back and see where it is coming from and figure out how to take control. You can do the following:

  • Take a Mental Health Day or vacation

  • Talk to your manager

  • Talk to a therapist

  • Start an employee resource group

  • Find a new job


After the earlier referenced incident, I immediately apologized to the director. Sometimes our emotions get the better of us. In cases when you do have an emotional outburst or not-so-proud interaction at work, apologize immediately to the person(s) affected. Do not try to justify your actions; give a simple apology by admitting your actions; show them you understand how it affected them and assure them that you’re working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Managing your emotions is an ongoing practice. The more time and attention you apply to learning your triggers and becoming self-aware, the easier it will become to handle discomfort at work and remain professional.

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