Keely was the last person to arrive at the office Monday morning and when she walked in, she could feel the tension in the air. As she walked back to her office, others looked up and rolled their eyes or shook their heads, and she knew what was going on. Their boss, the alpha-male type was on one of his tirades. Five minutes later it was her turn. Away from the office and feeling helpless, he was calling in and shouting at his staff, wanting this and that paper or information he didn’t have.

Kelly had a knot in her stomach and her head started to spin. Checking back in with her EQ competencies she did exercises to calm herself and get the static out of her brain. She knew it had nothing to do with her, but as the barrage from the boss’ cell phone continued, soon accompanied by emails from his laptop, others were cratering, and "it" started to run downhill.

In a small office, things like this are especially infecting. Tension can be contagious. Even if you manage it well, there will be some affect on you, because you're human and we're designed to notice and tune in to the emotions of others around us.


Keely sat in her office trying to play small while "it" flew around the office. Colby, the office manager appeared at her door with a big smile on his face, turned the corner and took the chair across from her desk.

"How was your weekend?' he asked in a normal tone of voice, just as if nothing untoward were going on. "Did you get up to your brother's?"

Keely recognized it for what it was, and gladly took the opportunity to relax into a normal conversation. Colby's reassuring demeanor and calm, matter-of-fact slash kind tone of voice were like a balm to her nerves frazzled by proxy.

As she related the details of her weekend visit with family, Keely was soon feeling quite normal again, realizing that everything was fine despite the boss' tantrums.

Colby left after a couple of minutes, walking in a loose, relaxed manner, head held high, smile on his face, and she heard him enter the office next to hers, asking, “How was your weekend?” to her colleague.

Keely then got up and went out to the coffee room feeling much better, and spread her own contagious smile and relaxed demeanor. After a few minutes she and Shelly were even laughing.


A good part of the manager's job is to manage the emotions in the office; to notice negative emotions and stop their spread. A manager with high EQ (emotional intelligence) understands her own emotions and those of others, and the effect they can have on a group. She or he pays attention to the office's emotional temperature just as much as to the work flow, deadlines, assignments, and productivity. Why? Because it's the emotions that drive the productivity. An office that's full of tension and fear is an office in a downward spiral, heading toward dysfunction.

Even if the current 'problem' is handled, there will be an aftermath. High tension, fear and anger drain us after they disappear and the effects can be long-lasting. People who work under constant tension burn out, stay home, engage in "presenteeism" (coming to work but getting little done), make more mistakes, and treat each other with disrespect because they're focused on their own emotional management and have little left over for
anyone else. They also fall into the CYA mode, where they withhold information from fear, and avoid certain people from dislike. Who likes a raging tyrant? Say what you will, you will avoid this person, will withhold information, will become inauthentic, and will function below capacity.

If you're the manager, learn to be "the eye of the storm," a center moving through whatever's going on who represents normality, personal power and resourcefulness. Practice good EQ. It will free people to rediscover their own motivation, and affect the bottom line as much as anything else in your bag of tricks.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach,

Individual coaching for professionals, executives, and individuals, business programs, Internet courses, teleclasses, and ebooks on Emotional Intelligence. Improve your EQ, improve your life! for FREE ezine. Put "ezine" for subject line. Check out the best ebook library on the Internet -