Managing Triggers In The Workplace

Everyone brings their inner children to work with them. Some unhealed parts of us left unattended, however, bleed into our emotions and can affect our behavior.

We see the consequences of unhealed parts of us acting out all the time.

  • A colleague stops talking to you for no known reason.
  • A boss, who has no sense of core values, frantically attempts to make his employees happy and tanks the organization.
man massaging his temples due to stress

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari

As an educator for 30 years, I would be triggered by one or two students in a school year who inadvertently informed me that I had more healing to do.

One year an obese kindergartener, Bella, entered my classroom. She had little academic skills. She did not know any letters of the alphabet or numbers. She had little language development. On top of that, she was very uninterested in learning and would cry when you insisted she finish her assignments.

I immediately got angry. My patience quickly dissolved each day she cried. It got so bad, I resisted interacting with her.

But my reaction bothered me.

It also raised questions about additional responsibilities professionals have.

How can we perform to the highest standards in our industry while managing our judgments, fears, depression, and unhealed parts of ourselves?

Consider these three strategies:

1. Awareness.

Through observing yourself and remaining open to personal growth, you’ll benefit from the opportunity to make changes in your worldview. Although I was perplexed by my reaction to Bella, my awareness that it was my issue as a starting point for change. Controlling my reactions to students in my classroom, I realized, could make me a better teacher.

2. Triggered?

When you are triggered, ask yourself, “What does this remind me of”? In the case of this overweight kindergartener, whose apathy got under my skin, I realized she reminded me of a childhood dynamic I had forgotten about.

Do the Work

As a teacher, I highly valued creating a nurturing and fair learning environment for my students, and now I was being put to the test. I accepted the challenge—I needed to see what my projection onto Bella was saying about me. Frankly, many of us avoid pulling these roots up because it can be painfully revealing. Yet, it is so worth it.

In my childhood, I was Bella. I used food as a coping tool to anesthetize deep feelings of insecurity, awkwardness, and loneliness. I frequently judged myself for the pounds that crept up on my frame and reacted to friends and family members who noticed and commented. This further drove me into the comfort of food. It was a difficult season in my life.

With help, I processed the pain during that period. Ultimately, I was able to let go of the hurt and anger. My “Bella” was integrated.

This luckily happened throughout the school year. The good news is because I undertook this journey of self- discovery, and healing, my attitude got better towards my kindergarten student.

Now, without being sidetrack by my judgment, I was able to be a more impartial teacher who could assess her needs, provide resources and support to her. She academically improved.

In short, I could do my job better.

I adopted this practice any time I found myself having difficult reactions to students.


What about you? How are the unhealed parts of yourself interfering with your job performance?

Is it causing procrastination, conflict at work, isolation, poor productivity?

It’s time to take responsibility. Use awareness, lines of questioning and action to transform the unhealed parts of yourself while rising in your industry!

You’ll improve the quality of your work, enhance collaboration efforts, improve your work habits and innovate your way to improved productivity.

This was a guest post by Rosalind Henderson. Rosalind is a certified leadership trainer, accredited speaker, and an author of several books. She works with professionals who desire to elevate their work performance while managing anger, anxieties, and hurts.

You can reach her at
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