Perfect Your Work Poker-Face (Looking Like It’s Under Control When It Isn’t)

You might argue that "looking like it’s under control when it isn’t", is trying to act "fake". However, there are times in life, when you need to hide what you really feel and show a poker-face. This is especially true in the workplace. We've all witnessed people who have lost control of their emotions at work, slamming doors, yelling at coworkers or customers, and saying things they'll soon regret.

Imagine this; the idea you have been working on profusely over the week-end is turned down by your superiors, your boss wears a hideous outfit to the morning meeting, you get dumped during the lunch break..... Whatever the trigger, there are some occasions when you are in hysterics (for good and bad reasons). Yet you know it is unprofessional to let out your emotions in the workplace. You are painfully aware that you are committing career suicide by losing control of your emotions at work. What can you do about it?

#1. Recognize what ticks you off
Be alert to the types of situations that knock you off-center. For example, if you get annoyed when people keep interrupting with questions during your presentation, plan before hand how you will handle any hecklers. Planning a positive way to react will help you defuse your anger before it throws you off.

#2. Give your self time
Try not to react in the heat of the moment. Yes, this is a "golden oldie" advice but it had to be said. Ensure you are not overreacting. If you feel your temper flaring on the phone or in a meeting, count to 10 to keep you from losing your cool. Analyze the facts before going on a rant or becoming defensive. Remember that the best way to stay unreadable is to look consistent, whether you are happy or sad.

#3. Don’t allow the stress of the moment affect your game plan
Consider your whole objective and what you want to achieve, rather than reacting to this particular situation. Even if you have just received some negative remarks from your boss and you want to scream, take a deep breath and visualize your long-term goal. Whether that’s a promotion or getting a good enough reference to leave!

#4. Understand your colleagues
The better you are at understanding your colleagues’ signals the better you will be at interpreting their motives. What initially seems to be a snide comment might be a feeble attempt at humor. By getting to know your coworkers' characters and personalities, you won't be blind-sided when they do or say something that irritates you.

#5. Talk to someone who can calm you down
Acknowledge and express your emotions appropriately with a close friend, and be prepared to listen whenever they are ready to explode. It really is a win-win situation.
I have always had someone to confide in, both inside and outside of the office, about my frustrations. These wonderful people keep my sanity intact, when the times are tough!

#6. Practice!
It takes time to train yourself not to allow your emotions to betray what you are thinking. If you perfect your skills to mask your emotions, you will be able to retain an air of professionalism, what ever happens at work.

Despite your best intentions, if you do end up erupting in a meeting, criticize a colleague's work or make ill-timed comments that you regret, apologize immediately to the targeted person and to everyone around who may have heard.

Do you use a "poker-face" at work? What are the steps you take, to keep your emotions intact?

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I do (But…. I don't): Decide To Be Decisive
You HAVE TO Love What You Do
Why Do Smart People Do Stupid Things Sometimes?

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Helen Burton said...

Hi Shamelle:

What great advice. It is so important to keep your cool in some situations. Helen

Enhance Life said...

Hi Helen,
Yes, we have to keep cool as a cucumber at certain situations. :-)

Thanks Helen.

Mark said...

These are all very good suggestions. Losing it is a choice. Our reactions are a choice. We do not have to re-act in the way that we have trained ourselves to, we can reprogram ourselves so to speak.

Life Reflection said...

Hi Shamelle,

I guess the biggest challenge is really to "catch it" before the emotion arise. Often we are too unconscious about it and too busy to notice it.... :)

Reg Adkins said...

What great tips. You've really nailed the escalation continuum.

Enhance Life said...

@ Mark: Definitely, the way we react is a choice indeed.

@ life reflection: in order to "catch it", I guess we have to be know the triggering moment.

@ Reg: Thank you for the encouraging words.


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