How to Use the Emotion Wheel to Manage Stressful Situations at Work

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 22, 2024 at 2:30AM UTC

Let’s face it: work is stressful. And sometimes, it can be difficult to keep our emotions in check.

While feelings can be useful in many contexts, when we’re not fully cognizant of or in touch with our emotions, situations can become overly heightened, overwhelming, and even out of control.

But emotions ARE important in our professional lives as much as our personal ones. So, how can we leverage them to our benefit — not our detriment? One answer is the emotion wheel.

What is the emotion wheel?

There are several different types of so-called emotions or feelings wheels. Here, we’ll be focusing on Dr. Robert Plutchik’s emotion wheel. This is a tool that establishes a vocabulary for discussing emotions while acknowledging their nuances, responses, and reactions.

The Plutchik emotion wheel identifies eight categories:

  • Joy

  • Sadness

  • Acceptance

  • Disgust

  • Fear

  • Anger

  • Surprise

  • Anticipation

Emotions are color-coded, and each emotion has an opposite. For example, joy and sadness appear across from one another. Emotions can also be blended to form another “sub” emotion. According to Dr. Plutchik, every emotion derives from one of the primary categories on the wheel. 

How can you use it?

Get to know yourself and your emotional responses.

First, you can use the emotion wheel to better understand your emotional responses and how certain events or circumstances trigger feelings in you. 

Sometimes, emotions are straightforward. But other times, you may be confused about how you feel. By checking the emotion wheel when you’re having a complex response in a work scenario or otherwise, you will be better equipped to understand and modulate your reactions.

Train yourself to “check in.”

Once you start to gain a sense of your own emotional triggers and responses, you can start to train yourself to check in with yourself, rather than immediately react. That means that you won’t have to worry about being impulsive in your response. You need to behave professionally at all times, even when others aren’t, and the emotion wheel will allow you to take a beat before being quick to anger or frustration, for example.

Learn to gauge others’ emotional responses.

Another advantage to the emotion wheel is that it will allow you to better understand your colleagues’ emotions and their responses. Often, it’s difficult to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, particularly when they have a viewpoint that is at odds with your own. This is especially true when you’re in a heated argument or conflict. 

But using the visualization of the emotion wheel can allow you to gain better insight into where they’re coming from and what they could be experiencing internally. And if you gain that understanding, you will be better equipped to temper your own response and manage difficult conversations and interactions.

Understand work dynamics.

A work environment is full of complex dynamics — different personalities, various expectations, and diverse work styles and approaches. There are also work politics at play. The emotion wheel can help you navigate the various intricacies in your workplace: nonverbal cues, contrasting viewpoints, ways of approaching projects, and so on. This, in turn, will enable you to become a more insightful worker.

Ultimately, the emotion wheel can assist you in developing your emotional intelligence, which is critical when you’re grappling with numerous challenges and various personalities. As you master this art, you will become a better professional — and a more attuned human being.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology, and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev, and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Flexx Magazine, Points in Case, Jane Austen's Wastebasket, and Greener Pastures. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at:

Have you used the Emotion Wheel before? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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