Emotional agility is marked by an individual’s ability to experience their thoughts, emotions and experiences in a way that doesn’t drive them in negative ways, but instead encourages them to reveal the best of themselves. This is an essential skill in the complex modern workplace.

By fostering the emotionally agile journey we can empower employees to manage stress, increase productivity and be their best selves.

We can also educate management to lead their teams in ways that introduces a healthy perspective to challenges and complications that arise in an ever-changing work environment.

Four steps to fostering Emotional Agility in the Workplace

  1. Show Up

The first step is acknowledging emotions and stresses as they occur –not to dwell on them, but to learn. What am I feeling right now? What does this say about my values? An emotionally agile person is able to recognize their feelings with self-compassion and understanding.

The opposite of showing up

Most people either do one of two things in a stressful situation; bottle up their emotions or brood. While these two behaviours may appear different externally, they are similar in result, and both consume significant mental energy that detracts from productivity. Furthermore, both brooding and bottling are associated with lower levels of well-being and higher levels of anxiety and depression.

  1. Step Out

Stepping out means specifically labelling the problem. In order for managers and HR professionals to provide support to individuals, or individuals to support themselves, there needs to be an accurate understanding of the problem.

For example, “I feel stressed” might mean many things – it might mean an individual is disappointed in a situation, it might mean he or she doesn’t feel right for their current job role or it might mean that they are not being heard in meetings.

Once a stressful situation is diagnosed specifically it’s much easier to create an action plan to move forward.

The opposite of stepping out

Relegating all stress as having the same cause and refusing to dig deeper into a situation to find the root of the problem.

  1. Walk Your Why

Walking your why involves self-identifying values. Even in times where we are right and others are wrong we still have the capacity to make choices that are values-aligned. It is important for individuals to reflect, “Even in the context of all this change, who do I want to be? Is it important for me to be a contributor? A collaborator? An innovator?”

When we move towards our values and we are able to make choices that align us with who we want to be that is incredibly empowering and provides a newfound sense of autonomy in difficult situations.

The opposite of walking your why

Deferring to default, gut-reaction behaviour – disengaging and having a negative attitude even when deep-down it is a value of the individual to have a positive attitude. When human beings step away from their values they become malcontent and disengaged without even realizing it.

  1. Move On

Once you’ve unpacked what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and aligned your next steps with who you want to be in the situation, it’s time to move on and take action.

Emotionally agile individuals handle situations as they come up, feel them fully, make a plan and don’t delay.

The opposite of moving on

Staying stuck in the cycle. Second guessing your feelings, your values or your approach and delaying in a way that limits your own growth. It can be easy to get stuck in a busy office environment which is why being confident in closing the chapter on a stressor or complex situation is an important final step.

In summary

Emotional agility is both a practical set of tools and a means of building resilience. It’s a pathway where individuals can stop ignoring or being beaten by stress and learn to become more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Whether it’s in the workplace or in personal situations emotional agility provides the framework for people to think about who they want to be in difficult situations and then become that person.

EAP – Employee Assistance Program Australia