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This Panera Employee Showed That Even When Bad Things Happen, We Can Respond With Emotional Intelligence

Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone learns from them.

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What would you do if you got fired after posting a video outing your employer–a video that went viral and was seen by millions of people?

That’s what happened recently to a Panera employee, identified by People.com as Brianna Ramirez. Ramirez thought she’d have a little fun at work; so, she posted a video on the popular app TikTok with the caption “exposing Panera.” The video showed how workers make the fast-casual chain’s popular mac and cheese dish, namely, by dropping a packet of frozen noodles and sauce into boiling water then pouring the contents into a bowl.

There’s no way Ramirez could have known her video would go viral, but that’s exactly what happened. The UberFacts Twitter account reposted the video with a man laughing hysterically in the background. The video has since been viewed over 11.5 million times.

Soon after, though, Ramirez claimed on Twitter she lost her job.

Ouch.

With tons of new supporters online, it would have been easy for Ramirez to bash her former employer. She could have spilled more insider secrets, or she could have lobbied to get her job back.

Instead, she tweeted the following:

This tweet is more than a classy response. It teaches some major lessons in emotional intelligence–the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

How so?

Instead of getting caught up in the moment, or turning Panera into the bad guy, Ramirez recognized her own mistakes and continued to praise her former employer. Most important, she took advantage of the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. (I’ve reached out to both Ms. Ramirez and Panera Bread for comment and will update this article if I receive a response.)

Here’s how you can apply the EQ lessons to your own life:

Learn from criticism.

This is easier said than done–it never feels good to hear that we’re wrong.

In my book EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I compare negative feedback to a freshly mined diamond. It may be ugly to the naked eye, but after some cutting and polishing, its value becomes obvious.

Criticism is like that unpolished diamond: To the recipient, it’s ugly. At best, it’s making a big deal out of nothing; at worst, it’s an all-out attack. But we’re all imperfect, with limited perspectives and blind spots–that’s why negative feedback is essential for growth.

Just like a diamond cutter can take a raw, unpolished diamond and turn it into something beautiful, you can learn to reap the benefits of criticism–if you see the big picture.

Ponder your mistakes.

Of course, life would be great if you could avoid making mistakes, but that’s impossible. At times, we all say and do things we later regret.

But when that happens, you have a choice: You can forget what happened, move on, and react the same way the next time you’re faced with something similar. Or, you can try to sort through what happened and build a plan for dealing with the future.

If you make a huge mistake, don’t ignore it. Take time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I do what I did?
  • What steps led up to my action?
  • How did my emotions contribute to my faulty decision?
  • What would I change if I could do it again?
  • What could I say to myself next time that would help me act differently?

By answering these questions, you’ll get better at recognizing your emotions and tendencies moving forward. The key isn’t to make decisions void of emotion–rather, to balance emotions and smart thinking.

That’s making emotions work for you, instead of against you. 

A note to Panera

There’s no way to know exactly why Panera decided to fire Ramirez. She may have been warned about certain behaviors before, or Panera may have a strict policy that necessitated termination. (As mentioned, I’ve reached out to the company for comment, but they likely won’t speak on specific personnel matters.)

Regardless, Ramirez’s willingness to admit her mistakes makes a big statement about how she views her employer and her own willingness to grow.

It also shows evidence of a growing EQ. Because emotional intelligence isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s partially how you handle the mistakes you do make that determines your emotional intelligence.

If Panera is smart, it would consider offering Ramirez a job in the future. Think about it: a fully trained employee who has learned from mistakes, is willing to grow from them, and is loyal to her employer despite getting fired?

It’s the emotionally intelligent thing to do.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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