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Emotional Self-Awareness in the Workplace

Emotional Self-Awareness in the Workplace

No one is born with self-awareness. It is a skill that needs to be learned and developed over time. Having the ability to understand their  own strengths, weaknesses, values, and emotions, and how these affect their behaviour and interactions with colleagues at work is a valuable asset. 

Individuals who lack self-awareness may struggle to connect with their team, misinterpret feedback and make poor decisions that will negatively impact their organisations. In contrast, those who cultivate self-awareness are better at leading with empathy, communicate  more effectively, and foster robust relationships with stakeholders.

Self-awareness is not an inherent trait; rather, it's a skill that requires deliberate learning, continuous refinement, and gradual strengthening over time.

What is Emotional Self-Awareness?

Emotional self-awareness is the ability to understand and recognise your own thoughts, emotions and feelings, and how they can affect you and your performance. It’s a key part of emotional intelligence because knowing yourself and how your emotions can impact others will help you maintain better relationships, build trust, improve communication, and a range of other soft skills.

Having emotional self-awareness allows you to have an accurate sense of your strengths and limitations, which gives you a realistic self-confidence. This will also bring clarity on your values and sense of purpose, so you can make better decisions and, as a leader, it will display authenticity and conviction in the workplace.

Why is Emotional Self Awareness Important in the Workplace?

Great leaders with self-awareness foster a positive emotional climate that encourages motivation and extra effort, resulting in best working climates for their teams. Without being able to recognise your own feelings, you cannot control them. Lack of such awareness can get in the way of understanding others emotions and can become a challenge having a positive outlook on others if your own emotional state is not clear. 

Having emotional self-awareness is a predictor of overall workplace success, resulting in high performance teams.

Better Decision-Making

Leaders constantly face decisions with far-reaching consequences under a deadline-driven environment. Emotional self-awareness improves their decision-making process by having feelings under control and taking a “third-person” perspective to stand back and evaluate more objectively what is going on. Keeping apart personal biases from impartial assessments will result in more rational and fair decisions.

Conflict Resolution and Communication 

Emotionally intelligent leaders are adept at managing conflicts within their teams. Their self-awareness enables them to remain composed  in challenging situations, facilitating productive conversations and promoting solutions. They are also skilled at reading emotional cues, allowing them to communicate effectively and adjust their communication style based on how their team feels.

Handling Stress and Pressure

Leadership often comes with considerable amounts of stress and pressure. Emotionally self-aware leaders are more attuned to their stress triggers and can employ effective coping mechanisms. This, in turn, positively impacts their resilience and ability to lead during challenging times. 

Inspiring and Motivating

Leaders who understand their emotional states can use this insight to inspire and motivate their team. They can effectively express their vision and enthusiasm, rallying their team members around shared goals. This emotional resonance can be a powerful driver of employee engagement and commitment.

Emotionally self-aware leaders are not static in their development. They actively seek feedback, engage in self-reflection, and are open to personal growth. This commitment to self-improvement sets a valuable example for their team, fostering a culture of learning and development and a resilient work environment.

How to Develop Emotional Self-Awareness?

Recognising your own emotions and feelings and how they can shape your behaviour is a skill that you can develop, much like you can build your swimming technique. The act of acknowledging your emotions isn’t a one-time accomplishment; it requires ongoing attention and practice.

Listen To Your Body

To build self-awareness, it is important to tune into your body’s cues. When you’re terrified or furious, your heart rate accelerates compared to when you’re calm. You might also notice a light sweat or an increase in your breathing rate and your shoulder muscles may tighten.

When we’re stressed, our body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and they lead to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, decreasing our ability to make good decisions. This state narrows our options to a few primal responses: flight or fight, or freeze.

However, if we are aware that we are getting stressed, we gain the ability to make choices that can mitigate the stress level and improve the chances to respond accordingly. Without this, our reactions might be solely driven by feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Managing Emotional Triggers

Take a moment to pause when you start to feel stressed and notice how it feels in your body. For some, stress can manifest as tension in the jaw or neck; for others, it might be felt in the chest, abdomen or elsewhere. Alternatively, close your eyes and think of a recent stressful event. Where do you feel it? Take an additional step and acknowledge the emotion you’re experiencing - is it anxiety, anger, frustration or something else?

Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

Having a high level of self-awareness is one of the keys to building your emotional intelligence. As a leader, you’re probably accustomed to working in a high-pressure, deadline-driven environment. Having the ability to control impulsive feelings and taking the initiative to manage emotions in a healthy way is key for successful leadership. According to Talent Smart, 90% of high performers in the workplace possess a high EQ, while 80% of low performers have a low EQ.

Practise Awareness

Taking time to reflect on your own feelings, thoughts and reactions can help you gain insight into the underlying emotions driving your behaviour. Putting aside some time for mindfulness and reflection will help you be more present with ourselves, our work, and our families. Keeping a journal with the emotions we feel on a daily basis and what triggered them will help to spot patterns and understand your emotions in the workplace and private life.

Overcome Barriers

Developing emotional self-awareness is an ongoing process that comes with challenges. Accepting how we are feeling can be difficult at times, as we would like to feel differently. Developing a healthy mind with good habits, eating well and being active are some of the
ingredients for an improved wellbeing which will help to better understand our own feelings. 

It’s more likely that we will respond appropriately to our emotions if we acknowledge them, rather than attempting to suppress them.

Leadership and Emotional Self-Awareness


Emotionally self-aware leaders form genuine connections with their team members. Their ability to identify and acknowledge their own emotions extends to perceiving the feelings of others. This awareness fosters empathy, allowing leaders to relate to their team on a human level and respond empathetically to their concerns and needs.

Specialists in Building Resilient Teams

At Morgan Philips, we are experts in creating high-performing teams and developing your current leaders. Our coaching solutions provide soft skills workshops focused on agility, understanding self and others and dealing with pressure and being resilient. Our talent consulting services will leverage individual’s potential to positively affect wider organisational goals.

Contact our expert team in performance and agility coaching and start building resilient leadership and teams with our Agility Model. We provide a holistic view scientifically proven to accelerate the performance of your high potentials and future leaders.

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