Clinical training leads me to make observations in the workplace that a typical HR professional might not see. This article discusses employee emotional health. I have spent years working with many companies who are attempting to handle emotionally unhealthy individuals. The havoc created by emotional outbursts and unrealistic expectations are incredibly disruptive. But instead of talking about unhealthy employees, let discuss the positive behavior displayed by emotionally healthy individuals — how they handle challenges in the workplace.
Emotionally healthy and well-adjusted folks typically receive reinforcement for their reasonable conduct at work. Coworkers typically see them as good performers and loyal employees. Supervisors describe them as great workers. In my experience, these folks are not only more successful but also less stressed in the workplace.
1. They know who they are
Emotionally healthy people are introspective enough and paid enough attention to feedback on their style, to have a realistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses. These folks have had the motivation to work on some of their weaknesses, especially dealing with people. They’ve taken advantage of the opportunity for positive self-growth. They believe in the possibility of positive change in others, making them a strong candidate for leadership when combined with technical skill.
2. They don’t worry about whether people like them
While it is helpful if coworkers and leaders are well-liked by folks at work, it isn’t the most important thing. This is true especially in a negative or dysfunctional workplace. At the point just before and organization intervenes to correct dysfuction, individual who has the best ideas and the courage to put them out there can risk upsetting certain negative employees. In a position of leadership, being well-liked could be an indicator of success if all the staff members are high performing, self-aware people! For a leader working with a poor performing or poorly motivated group, someone who keeps good professional boundaries will have a more objective view of staff performance and be able to offer suggestions for improvement.
3. They treat others with respect – golden rule
Someone who feels good about themselves can feel comfortable giving credit to others. One of the things good employees want most is to be treated with respect. In a toxic workplace, it’s a strong individual who can resist negative group behavior. When a respectful person has a disrespectful leader they can listen to the noise from above and, rather than pass it along, work with consideration when dealing with his/her own team. Those who strive to treat others with respect make great workplace role models for positive culture.
4. They don’t have a need to over-control people
Hyper-control of people and things isn’t really productive at work. Sometimes people think that because they can manipulate others, they can actually control them. But human beings do what they want most of the time. Most will naturally resist the control of over-controlling coworkers or supervisors. Sometimes folks can be controlled through threats and fears, but it doesn’t last. Being comfortable with a coworker’s reasonable self-directed behavior helps prevent the overreaction to stifle initiative .
5. They are comfortable communicating expectations and letting go
Especially in leaders, a comfort level with providing clear goals and allowing employees to shine is good delegation. Providing well-timed guidance along the way is key to allowing staff to grow and improve. These folks notice when staff have success from their own actions and offer them credit.
6. They have realistic expectations of the company
Having realistic expectations of your boss or workplace is incredibly healthy as well as practical. Even the best workplace includes mistakes and misunderstandings. The key is how someone reacts to them. Some employees withdraw and assume everything is directed at taking advantage of them (sometimes true, sometimes paranoid!) While others give someone the company the benefit of the doubt as to motivation; remain calm and engage in a dialogue of what happened and how to help make it better. These folks don’t need everything to be perfect, they just expect the company to be reasonable.
7. They manage their emotions at work
Healthy people do not ven their strong emotions on others in the workplace. They have patience and resist impulsive actions based upon fear or anger. They know their own emotions and have a sense to keep them under reasonable control. This allows them to vent inevitable emotions in a confidential, safe and productive manner. This is related to not blaming others in anger, for their own mistakes.
8. They accurately identify and accept emotions in others
This is helpful since no workplace is devoid of emotion. Understanding and accepting that people have feelings about what happens at work, especially when it happens to them personally, can help a coworker anticipate emotional reactions to things. This prompts good leaders to be careful and thoughtful when considering unpopular changes that must be made for sound business reasons. Finally, these folks understand that just because someone has a negative reaction to their idea, doesn’t necessarily make it a bad idea. Staying detached from coworker overreactions is helpful in today’s stressful workplace.
9. They are comfortable with their role in the workplace
These folks know the difference between their personal needs and the company’s goals or mission. There are a number of personal needs employers must attend to like paid time off and such, but no company can meet every employee need. There is a compensated agreement – the average employee produces a reasonably good end result and the company rewards this monetarily. I find that when job candidates insist that a new employer make them “whole,” with outrageous demands, this can miss the point company financial structure and perhaps compensation equity within the company.
10. They are relatively satisfied with what they’ve achieved
The best way to articulate this quality is to picture the person who is insecure and wants out-sized, external reinforcement of their worth. They want unrealistic salary increases, promotions or office workstations. There is nothing wrong with consistent and fair rewards for performance but an employee who is contributing less and wanting more creates a tough dilemma for any company. If you are happy with who you are and what you’ve achieved, you can appreciate the intrinsic reward when doing your best and achieving company goals. You also appreciate fair, reasonable treatment and compensation.
Acknowledgement – some of the qualities described here are very hard to maintain when the workplace is toxic or dysfunctional. If an emotionally healthy employee finds themself in a toxic workplace, strength of character will hopefully and eventually lead them to find a new position in a healthier workplace.
Originally published 2016 – updated Sept 2022 (c) All rights reserved