Emotions and Performance. How this relationship works?

The Isolation Method
Drawing by Adrian Serghie

How do emotions influence our performance? Does it differ depending on the emotion? If so, can we use this in our advantage? How?

We tend to think about emotions as something out of control, whilst we have a general opinion that we can control our performance. However, if emotions have a big influence our performance, do we really control the way we perform in different situations (e.g. at work)?

From what I’ve experienced so far, emotions have huge influence over our performance. Just think about a regular workday. How often does it happen for an email to come in and you try to postpone your answer until the next day just because you don’t feel like dealing with that immediately? For me, it happens more often that I want to admit and because of this, I tend to believe that our performance is influenced by our emotions.

Negative Emotions and Performance

In my previous example, I used a negative emotion because these are more common and more powerful than the positive ones. When sadness or depression takes over, it’s like a dark cloud made of little demons whispering sh*tty things surrounds us and our will to work goes home before we do (and unfortunately it doesn’t make dinner).

Therefore, every time a negative emotion comes, our emotion drops. However, I noticed that emotions like anger, combined with ego, can increase our performance. For example, if a colleague sends a stupid email trying to prove he/she is better than you are, that could make you angry and you’ll try to show how great you are by working your ass off. Frustrations, which are cocktails of negative emotions, can also have this effect sometimes, in the right circumstances.

Positive Emotions and Performance

What about positive emotions? Can they improve our performance? Well, I think it depends. Sometimes we feel so happy that we don’t want to do anything related to work. There are other times we feel so pumped that we do in a day what we do in a week. It’s all about how we channel positive feelings.

Actually, it’s all about how we channel our negative emotions too. Imagine having problems at home with your bills and your only salvation would be more money. In this case, you’ll go to work to prove you’re the best so you can get a bonus or even a raise. The problems caused negative emotions, but those emotions are channeled to create performance so that performance can fix the problems.

As usual, it’s all about perspective. If we manage to channel our emotions with the things we need to do, then we can use them as a fuel to improve our performance. If we let those emotions block us, then our performance will drop. It’s all about the one that handles the emotions.

Which emotions can increase your performance and which emotions can decrease it?

20 thoughts on “Emotions and Performance. How this relationship works?

  1. Today is a great example of negative emotions resulting in a positive and productive work day. I let my bad date last night carry over into today; however, the fact that I was getting distracted by it the first hour of work made me throw myself into my job with gusto. I encouraged myself to concentrate on a task I’ve been putting off to distract me from personal thoughts. Luckily what I was doing was in a room away from most coworkers, so I could throw on a 90s playlist and ignore the world for a bit.
    On days when I’m super happy, I occasionally find myself chatting more with coworkers than usual.
    So agreed. Emotions definitely play into our productivity levels. I normally don’t realize how much until I’ve come to a full stop in the task at hand.
    Great post!

    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing your experience! Once we get to understand ourselves, we can use that knowledge in our best interest 🙂

  2. I have difficulty with emotions.. they feel like non useful things to have, to me. Particularly anger. But if you can call empathy an emotion, I’ve found that useful at work and elsewhere.

  3. I work in the civil rights field, and my emotions positively influence my performance a lot. Knowing that I am helping someone who is powerless to help themselves motivates me. Or perhaps I am helping them to put an end to something that is wrong. Sometimes, I can’t help them, because their problems are not ones I can solve (not civil rights related), but I can be the one person they talk to that day that treats them like a valued member of the human race. My work touches many people and it keeps me focused, motivated, and wanting to do more, not less.

    1. This is awesome! Congratulations for doing this! Even though sometimes we can’t do something concrete to help someone, the talks can do the difference.

  4. I’m currently reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a book I highly recommend even though I’ve just started it. In it, he makes some counter-intuitive claims about some of what you touch on here. His book is certainly relevant to this discussion and thought-provoking.

  5. I can totally relate to what you have written here. Emotions play us sometimes. Although anger will make me feel better of, but I try my best to avoid communicating during this time (just in case I say something I shouldn’t). I tend to perform much better during down times, simply because I have shifted all my energy to focus on new goals instead of stuck in depressing moments.

  6. I agree with you. I think both of them can affect our performance depends on how you control the emotions. Sometimes, I can perform better (even the best) when I’m in negative emotions, like anger and sadness. Because I think when I do some good and productive activities, I can get the problems out of my mind. So, I can feel better. Sometimes, I can perform better (even the best) when I’m in postive emotions. When I feel like my fighting spirit is on highest level, when I feel like inspired a lot by someone or something, that’s the best moment for me to execute my ideas or works asap. Thanks for sharing.

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