Owning and operating a family-owned business is stressful. Emotions can be intense ranging from excitement in landing a new client, to endless frustrations in managing staff, keeping on top of workloads, and dealing with family problems that overflow into the family business. Suppose you are not developing self-awareness and self-regulation in the workplace. In that case, you can easily get triggered into lashing out, yelling, and blaming others in the heat of the moment, acting on emotions you later regret.
This blog will provide step-by-step guidance for dealing with an emotional meltdown at work and strategies for preventing it from occurring. First, let’s look at what emotional ownership is, as it is the foundation for dealing with and regulating emotions. Let’s look at how you and your employees can learn to manage emotions in the family business.
What is Emotional Ownership
Ownership is taking responsibility for one’s choices, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In reference to emotions, you are developing self-awareness and self-regulation to guide you from a proactive rather than reactive position. This relates to the term emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is recognizing, managing, and understanding our own emotions, which allows us to relate, lead and collaborate more effectively with others.
When one is self-aware (operates with EQ) and takes responsibility for their emotions, they are effectively taking ownership of their choices and actions that affect others. Emotions make us human and can give us energy, warnings, and connection with others. Not dealing with your emotions can get you in a lot of hot water at work, damage relationships, create fears and misinterpretations by others, and retaliation by others. Emotions can be messy at work. Family businesses must work extra hard to keep family relationship problems from interfering with the healthy and successful function of the company.
Each family business is unique, yet the common emotions that become heightened during times of workplace or family distress, are anger and anxiety. The strategies I’ve included below will help you evaluate what is happening, give you strategies to build healthy emotional ownership, and who to ask for help if you are struggling.
#1 A Depleted Body Equals Depleted Self-Control
Lack of rest, skipping meals, unresolved resentments with family members, pressure at work, and ongoing marital problems are examples of triggers that make you vulnerable to loss of control.
Well-being in the body and mind is a like a bank account. If you keep withdrawing assets (draining physical and mental energy reserves) and increasing liabilities (an increasingly depleted body and mind), your threshold of self-control becomes weakened. You are operating on limited resources to stay well, be self-aware, and make healthy choices.
Ask yourself, what situations set you off emotionally at work and at home?
What did you discover? Each item on your list can trigger you to become reactive. One small event or encounter repeated starts the snowball of loss of control. Rather than being able to rationally approach a situation and communicate calmly regardless of being provoked your patience slips. What would have been a minor aggravation if you felt strong, healthy, and well-rested, turns into an emotional blowout.
#2 Tactics To Use When You Are Angry and Afraid
What to do in the heat of the moment
- Recognize the tension and pressure in your body.
- Step away, find a physical space you can go to, and collect yourself, even if you can only manage 5 or 10 minutes. Head to the bathroom, go outside, or go into your office and close the door.
- Awareness takes practice. Your body will always give you signs long before you are ready to lose your cool – from shallow breathing, tension in your chest, tightening fists, feeling panicky, and being unable to listen to what another person is saying. Fight or flight response becomes very apparent during an emotional meltdown. After the episode, you may feel restless, drained, and justified, then the guilt sets in.
How to release steam and get back present awareness
- Do physical exercise such as a walk in nature, weight lifting, biking, swimming, yoga
- Talk to a friend or coach for support
- Journal, attend to self-care, have some food and water if you’ve skipped a meal, take a short nap
- Do not turn to alcohol or recreational drugs, even for the short term as it can quickly become a coping habit that creates a string of additional problems and triggers
- Try a specific mental exercise to guide yourself to calm
Phil Stutz, a well-known psychiatrist, teaches that in order to move forward in life, facing and moving through pain is ultimately what helps us heal and feel better. He has developed a quick, portable, and easy-to-use self-talk and imagery tool. The tool I am referring to is The Reversal of Desire, The Higher Force: The Force of Forward Motion tool to help people to keep moving forward in times of duress and address self-sabotage. The tool assists us with facing feelings and thoughts we avoid dealing with. Here the exercise guides how to welcome the discomfort of that situation, face the emotions, and move through the pain.
#3 How To Clean Up After An Emotional Meltdown
Family business owners face exponentially increased risk for damaging relationships. An emotional meltdown can impact both the working relationship and the familial relationship. In an ideal scenario family conflict would not impact business operations or relationships. Life is never that easy though, but learning new skills, strategies, personal growth, and self-awareness can make a significant difference in reducing the risk of damaging relationships.
Here are a few tips:
- Take ownership of your emotions and behavior, and recognize how you may have impacted others with your words and actions at work
- Scripting out an apology can be a helpful tool for making amends
- When you are ready and feel prepared, have a conversation and listen to others impacted by your behavior.
Emotional self-awareness comes from taking ownership of your emotions. Without the skills of self-regulation, specific situations or a series of events can trigger an emotional meltdown at work. Depleting self-care, plus one stressor after another, without a healthy outlet, can lead to an emotional meltdown. In a family business, to lose one’s emotional control does not just affect the workplace, but impacts your family relationships as well.
Fosslien, L. & West Duffy, M. (2022). How to manage your anger at work. Harvard Business Review.
O’Hara, C. (2016). How to deal with a boss who behaves unpredictably. Harvard Business Review.
Kets de Vries, M (2017). Saving a family business from emotional dysfunction. Harvard Business Review.
Have you struggled at work, had a meltdown or experienced panic attacks, angry yelling outbursts, or said things to others that you regret after? Does this continue to happen because you don’t know how to stop or what to do?
Click the Discovery Call button below and reach out to me. I am a trained counselor and coach, specialized and experienced in working with family businesses to solve issues, and build success. I guide individuals, teams, and leadership with practical tools and understanding to solve problems.
Join our Lunch and Learn this month on Tuesday, March 28 @ 12:00 pm EST. You will learn how to recognize emotional triggers, the importance of self-care, and tactics for managing your emotions at work.