How To Deal With Emotional Triggers At Work: 4 Effective Strategies

In the fast-paced and often stressful environment of modern workplaces, learning how to deal with emotional triggers at work is essential. Triggers occur when there is a violation to your psychological safety, causing the pre-frontal cortex—the higher brain responsible for complex thinking and decision-making—to be overridden by the older, more primitive brain.

Triggers can be anything from a critical email to an unexpected change in plans, causing strong emotional responses that impact our productivity and well-being. Trigger management involves getting the pre-frontal cortex back into the drivers seat to lessen the impact the trigger is having. Understanding what happens when we get triggered and how to manage these reactions is crucial for building personal resilience, navigating workplace relationships and increasing our overall happiness & performance at work.


How Psychological Safety Can Help

Psychological safety, a term popularized by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, refers to a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

When we understand our own triggers and the emotional responses they provoke, we can better manage our reactions and maintain a more stable and productive work environment. This understanding is rooted in neuroscience, where recognizing and labeling our emotions can help reduce their intensity.


4 Effective Strategies to Deal with Emotional Triggers at Work

1. Label What’s Going On for You

When a trigger occurs, a good first step is to ‘label’ the emotion being experienced. Neuroscience research shows that naming emotions can help calm the brain’s emotional centers by creating distance between you and the emotion you’re experiencing. This shift allows for viewing the emotion as an experience rather than an identity.

For instance, if you receive an email criticizing your work, instead of reacting immediately, take a moment to acknowledge the feelings: “The emotions I’m experiencing are anger, upset, and frustration.” This simple act can significantly reduce the emotional charge and allow a more rational response.

Remember, it’s important to label the emotion rather than identify with it (e.g., say “I’m feeling angry” instead of “I am angry”).

There’s a great video by psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dan Siegel called ‘Name It To Tame It’ that explains this concept in more detail.


2. Look at Things from Their Perspective

Quite often, our emotional triggers stem from taking things too personally. Shifting perspective to understand the other person’s viewpoint can be incredibly beneficial. Sometimes this can be hard in the moment, but by recognizing that “it’s not them, it’s their brain”, it can help depersonalize situations and reduce emotional responses.

Neuroscience tells us that when adopting a first-person perspective of someone else’s mindset, especially in written form, a different part of the brain is engaged, aiding in processing the situation more effectively.

Questions like, “What might this situation tell me about their fears and needs?” or “What could be going on for them right now?” can provide valuable insights, especially when the person’s traits or behaviors are particularly grating. It’s important to remember that they’re not wrong, they’re just different.

By empathizing with others, the intensity of emotional responses can be dampened down, allowing for a more understanding and compassionate approach to the situation.


3. Reappraise What’s Going On

Reappraisal is ‘rewriting the story’. It is consciously putting aside the negative interpretation that caused your trigger response and seeking other neutral or positive interpretations that may challenge your assumptions, beliefs and attitudes.

Consider what you can learn from the situation or how it might benefit you. For example, many people were triggered by the return to the workplace after COVID-19, feeling that their need for autonomy was being compromised.

By reappraising this situation to see the benefits of returning to the office—such as increased collaboration and the chance to strengthen team relationships—you can mitigate the negative emotional response. If autonomy is your trigger, look for ways to regain a sense of control, such as negotiating flexible start and finish times or negotiating a hybrid working agreement.


4. Understand Your Own Psychological Safety Needs

The S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Model, developed by the Academy of Brain-based Leadership (ABL), identifies six domains of psychological safety: Security, Autonomy, Fairness, Esteem, Trust, and You. Understanding your own needs in these areas can help you navigate triggers more effectively.

ABL offers a free self-assessment that can provide insight into your psychological safety needs. By recognizing which domains are most relevant to you, you can take proactive steps to address and manage your triggers.


When building psychological safety in our relationships and teams and learning how to deal with emotional triggers at work, it is important to establish an agreed process for raising and working through our triggers. ABL’s T.R.A.I.N. process provides the neuroscience based strategies to catch, manage and communicate our triggers safely and effectively.
To learn more about the brain-based approach to building psychological safety and managing triggers read “Psychological Safety – the Key to Happy, High-Performing People and Teams”.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about your psychological needs, complete our free S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Self-Assessment to learn your top domain and consider upgrading your report and debriefing with a coach.

And, if you are a manager, leader, coach, consultant, or trainer, exploring our Psychological Safety Accreditation Program with us can further enhance your ability to create a safe and thriving workplace.

Case Study: How to Navigate a Company Merger Without Losing Your Top People


Spec Furniture, a stalwart in contract furniture manufacturing, has navigated the complexities of rapid growth, cultural integration, and the global pandemic. With roots dating back to 1991 and starting with just a four-person team, the company had established a strong presence in multiple sectors: corporate, healthcare and education.


The acquisition of Spec Furniture by Sauter Manufacturing in 2017 marked the beginning of a challenging cultural integration merger process. The company faced the dual challenges of honoring its family-business roots while adapting to the culture of a larger corporate entity.

This period of transition led to unease among longstanding employees. The situation was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced rapid shifts to remote work, causing significant disruptions in communication and collaboration.


Spec Furniture recognized the need for a strategic intervention to bridge the cultural divide and provide support for its employees during these periods of change.

Spec Furniture’s Chief Operations Officer Reg Bernard said:

“One of the things that we were trying to achieve was we recognized that we needed to develop some level of common language. We had people in front of us that were experiencing lots of changes. They didn’t know how to deal with it. We didn’t know how to deal with it.”

The objective was clear: to create a cohesive, inclusive culture that embraced both the legacy of Spec and the new direction under Sauter Manufacturing. The company aimed to establish a common language and set of tools that would facilitate better communication, collaboration, and support for the diverse needs of their teams.

The Imperative of Psychological Safety for Coaches, Consultants and Trainers

This article offers evidence of the imperative of psychological safety for coaches, consultants and trainers, outlining why its essential for client organizations and how it can be integrated and sustained through strategic initiatives and accreditation.

In today’s corporate environment, psychological safety has ascended from mere buzzword status to become an essential part of healthy organizational culture. The shift stems from both internal motivations and external pressures, signaling a permanent place for psychological safety in modern workplaces.


Internal Factors Driving the Need for Psychological Safety

Increased Performance

For professionals working with teams, it’s vital to understand that psychological safety directly impacts engagement and allows for greater innovation and productivity. When Google set out to determine what made their best performers tick, they discovered that psychological safety was the number one determining factor in team performance.

Through working with leaders and coaching them on developing greater skill in psychological safety, they’ll be creating environments that encourage teams to share openly without the fear of repercussions. Teams will be more inclined to take risks and generate better solutions providing a competitive edge.

Improved Bottom Line

Psychological safety contributes to the financial health of a company by fostering better decision-making and reducing costs associated with workplace conflicts. In a recent case study, ABL was able to show how psychological safety led to a financial record-breaking year for one of our clients.

As a consultant, emphasizing the economic benefits of psychological safety can help in persuading senior management to invest in relevant initiatives.

Occupational Health and Safety Compliance & Mitigating Risk

Addressing psychological hazards is now as crucial as managing physical ones. Executive coaches, consultants and trainers can guide organizations in complying with health and safety regulations, thereby mitigating risks associated with mental health that can have legal and financial repercussions.

Improved Retention

Retention is a significant concern for organizations, especially in light of ‘The Great Resignation’. Employees are naturally inclined to stay longer where they feel genuinely valued and understood. Coaches, trainers and consultants can highlight how a psychologically safe environment encourages employees to stay longer, reducing turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new staff.

Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Belonging

An inclusive culture is underpinned by psychological safety. Coaches and consultants play a crucial role in fostering environments where diversity is celebrated, and all employees can thrive, thus enhancing corporate reputation and employee satisfaction.


External Factors Reinforcing the Urgency

ISO Psychosocial Risk Regulations

Global standards now mandate the management of psychosocial risks. Executive coaches, trainers and consultants need to be well-versed in psychological safety to guide their clients effectively in achieving compliance.

Workplace Legislation & Accountability

In regions like Australia, Canada, and the UK, where psychological safety practices are legally mandated, coaches and consultants must prepare their clients to adhere to these laws to avoid penalties.

Employee Expectations

Post ‘The Great Resignation,’ employees prioritize workplaces that support their well-being. Coaches and consultants should advise leadership on the strategic value of meeting these expectations to attract and retain top talent.

Employee Health

With the rise of mental health issues, workplaces have a critical role in fostering employee well-being. Consultants, coaches and trainers can offer programs that help companies address these challenges, enhancing their role as supportive employers.


Achieving Psychological Safety Accreditation with ABL

To adapt and align with these driving forces, gaining accreditation in psychological safety is a strategic move for coaches, trainers and consultants. As the corporate world increasingly prioritizes mental health and well-being, those accredited in psychological safety will find themselves in high demand.

The Academy of Brain-based Leadership (ABL) offers a comprehensive Psychological S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Accreditation. Using our neuroscience-backed S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Assessment and Toolkit, coaches, consultants and trainers learn how to help people gain insight into their psychological safety needs and strategies to enhance the psychological safety of those they work with.



As an executive coach, trainer, or consultant, emphasizing the importance of psychological safety within client organizations is crucial. Not only does it foster a more innovative, productive, and inclusive workplace, but it also aligns with global standards and legal requirements, enhancing corporate reputation and operational success.

Through applying the knowledge gained from accreditation in your consulting or coaching practices you’ll be significantly enhancing your value proposition to clients.

Psychological safety is essential and it’s here to stay. Don’t get left behind.

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