Companies are mindfully tackling employee stress as a means for a greater mental health—and to impact the bottomline. After all, $300 billion is lost annually due to employees feeling mentally taxed. Processing emotions in the workplace requires a multi-pronged approach. Let’s say it demands more than a Harry Potter, “mischief managed” course of action. One company, LA-based FeelTank offers a hands-on program to guide individuals from overthinking to thinking consciously.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Anahita Parseghian, a teacher at FeelTank, explains “At the root of stress, which triggered a physiological response, is an emotion caused by a thought. The more in touch we are with our thoughts and the sensory feelings associated, the more successful we will be in managing our stress responses. Peak performance isn’t something we achieve by doing more; it is a state of flow that we develop through a persistent and deliberate practice of calming our nervous system and focusing our mind.”
Handle the thought process and by default, emotions can be more easily managed. For professionals leading a team, understanding how to facilitate emotions in the workplace is vital.
“Emotions travel person to person like a virus”, says Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade. “It’s an emotional contagion”. We’ve all been around the colleague who constantly complains how tired or overworked they are. Or how the exciting atmosphere of a new idea or special event is zapped by one person’s negative comments. Emotion has real effects on employees and consequently, on companies.
As John Milton wrote, “No man is an island”. That certainly includes the workplace. People don’t drop their emotions or predispositions at the office door. They bring the good and the bad with them. This affects how brainstorming sessions are overseen, how quickly a project is finished, how employees feel about their team members…bottom line: employees’ emotions drive organizations. Donald Gibson, a co-author on Barsade’s research, “Everybody brings their emotions to work. You bring your brain to work. You bring your emotions to work. Feelings drive performance. They drive behavior and other feelings. Think of people as emotion conductors.”
What kinds of emotions do employees exude?
According to Barsade and Gibson, the types of emotions can be divvied into three main groups: Discrete, Mood, and Disposition.
- Discrete emotions occur quickly and evolve away just as fast. Think of joy or fear.
- Mood pertains to a longer-lasting feeling, usually not directly connected to a specific event. Sometimes employees may feel down for a period of time.
- Disposition refers to the person’s particular outlook on life. This is a kind of a “brand” of a person. Some colleagues are nervous and people-pleasing, others may be known to be cheerful types.
According to one study, a company possesses 5 major competitive advantages: Intellectual Capital, Customer Service, Organizational Reactivity, Production, and Employee Retentivity. Barsade and Gibson’s 3 categories of emotion directly impact these competitive advantages. If employee emotion is generally negative, it becomes a hindrance as a company tries to reach goals. Becoming more knowledgable about employee emotion strengthens the critical connection between team emotion and company output.
How can a manager recognize the emotion that may possibly negatively impact a business process?
First, the manager needs to evaluate where their own mental state is at.
Research suggests that positive people do better in the workplace. Their cognitive processes and approaches are much more efficient and aware. If you’re a manager that tends to be fearful or difficult, your chances of being able to read other people’s emotions correctly—and how to make a decision based on that—significantly decrease. Follow the advice of rapper Ice Cube, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self”.
Second, avoid catching a bad mood.
Since emotions can be a good (or bad) virus-like occurrence, be sure to dodge the negative ones. What routines or people generally annoy you? If a colleague always seems to get under your skin, tell yourself that you will not be bothered by them. If the printer always breaks down, make a game of it. Create a scoreboard for all team members to participate when it fails. Make up your mind that you will not allow people or processes to trigger a draining emotion.
Third, pay attention to people’s emotional gives.
This is often called “emotional intelligence”. Read up on body language. Look at people’s faces or shoulders. When they’re feeling tense, certain individuals hold it by tightening their lips or upping their shoulders. Begin observing how team members’ react in high-pressure or relaxed situations. See how their body or face changes. This will tell you how to navigate the next step: walk away before catching a negative emotion, opening up the floor for discussion, or offering encouragement.
Fourth, pay extra attention to how you come across in emails.
Video conferences, messaging apps like Slack, add an extra dimension of complexity when it comes to office place emotions. It’s easy to be misunderstood over a message. Sentences that are relatively neutral in real-life interaction come across as rude in an email. Avoid exclamation points, unless you’re using it to cheer someone on. Be careful with humor and sarcasm as it’s easy to miss the mark. If you’re trying to exude a positive disposition, make your emails or messages extra warm—maybe way more than you would if you were talking with the person. Without body language or facial cues, messages are devoid of context. It’s important to give extra thought to what you’re relaying.
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Now, if only we could have saved Dobby…