By Emily Suess

Part of operating a successful small business is understanding how emotions affect our employees, our clients, and our customers. Whether dealing with joy or sorrow, anger or complacency, emotions can both help and hinder productivity. Part of being an emotionally intelligent boss is learning to anticipate emotional responses and use them to create a more productive workplace.

Acknowledge Your Employees Are Human

The people that work for you are not robots, and acknowledging and accepting the range of emotions experienced by your employees on a day-to-day basis can help relax tensions and increase productivity. Of course some emotional responses are inappropriate for the workplace, but to completely suppress or ignore an employee’s emotions can inflame existing conflicts, lead to turnover, and deflate morale.

Practice Empathy

You know what it’s like to be happy, and you know what it’s like to be sad. Empathy lets you turn an emotional reaction into something constructive. For example, an angry employee who’s just finished dealing with a difficult customer can use that energy for problem solving and coming up with a way to avoid similar situations in the future. An excited employee who’s just secured a big, new client can channel that enthusiasm to develop a training seminar for the rest of the sales team.

Defuse Tough Situations

Negative emotions are tougher to handle than positive emotions, but if you can defuse an angry client or an aggravated employee you can avoid losing a client or firing an employee. How you defuse the situation will depend on the circumstances, but your options include everything from asking someone who’s upset to tell their side of the story to sending someone on an errand outside the office to get away from the conflict.

Provide Legitimate Solutions

Negative emotions can be transformed into positive emotions when the focus is on empowering employees to make bad situations good and good situations better. Action is particularly helpful in helping employees combat fear. Perhaps they are worried that sales are low, that they’re not prepared for a big presentation, or that their job is on the line. Helping your staff develop a plan can take the focus off of emotions that are crippling to productivity.

Employees can counter negative emotions from customers in much the same way. Rather than fighting or arguing, they should focus on a plan that solves the problem for both parties without escalating tensions and completely giving in to their anger.

Nurture Workplace Relationships

Being emotionally intelligent means accepting the individuality of others, and that can help you build bonds among your staff. In the short term that means more pleasant workplace, but in the long term it can also decrease turnover and give your business a solid foundation for growth.

We all know that putting on a happy face and being fake can backfire. If we’re not genuine our customers and employees can see right through us. That’s why it’s important to understand the impact of emotions on a small business and use that information to channel emotional energy in a way that benefits the people and the company.