Workplace Dynamics: How work-life balance and emotions affect the office

Employees bring more to work than just their lunch.

That was the message Ulliance President and CEO Kent Sharkey delivered to HR professionals who recently gathered for the 2016 MISHRM conference in Detroit to discuss leadership strategies, relationship building and other trends in the human resources industry.

During his breakout session, Sharkey shared principles of understanding human dynamics while navigating the people side of business. He started with the issues HR professionals are confronted with daily surrounding employees who may not leave their personal issues at the door when they clock in, including:

  • Home and workplace stress
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Family problems
  • Relationship conflicts (personal and work)
  • Legal and/or financial issues

These issues can stir emotions that disrupt the work day and hinder productivity. While positive emotions can foster an atmosphere of teamwork, negative ones can sabotage any chance of employees working together. Negative emotions can be easily triggered by something as simple as misinterpreting an email or a casual conversation at the water cooler that goes awry. Being aware of such communication challenges as tone of voice in an email, the choice of words in a conversation and facial expressions, posture and gestures can help de-escalate emotions in the workplace.

Offering an empathetic ear, making eye contact and hearing a co-worker out are additional ways to foster good communication and help maintain an emotionally even keel in the office. And these practices can uncover deeper root causes of issues affecting employees’ productivity.

In regulating workplace emotions, HR professionals need to understand there are two types of minds: the rational mind (one that provides thoughts) and the emotional mind (one that provides feelings). The more the emotional mind intensifies with negative feelings, the more it will take over the rational mind. The successful HR professional doesn’t necessarily suppress negative emotions, but balances them with the positive among the workforce.

So, how does one maintain a positive workplace by helping employees overcome issues that are adversely affecting their relationships and productivity? Encouraging them to take advantage of their company’s employee assistance program (EAP) is a great place to start.  A well-rounded EAP can assist employees with emotional health, helping to guide them through life’s challenges that may interfere with their job. A dedicated counselor will work to address their barriers to personal and professional success, as well as help them seek solutions to achieve their goals.

Ulliance is an international service company headquartered in Troy, Michigan. For more than 25 years, Ulliance has been helping millions of people achieve their work/life goals through employee assistance programs (EAP), as well as other human resource services including wellness programs, training programs, organizational and leadership development, coaching, career transition services, and crisis management programs. For more information about Ulliance, please visit or call (866) 648-8326.