Modern managers and business owners know that their employees’ emotions are a barometer for their company’s culture and health. But how can you use emotion to your company’s advantage? It starts with knowing what your employees’ emotions mean for your company’s emotional culture.
Can You Use Emotion to Your Company’s Advantage?
A 2021 study shows that when employees work in a “team authentic affect climate” they are more creative. This means creating an emotional culture which encourages members to share and respond to authentic emotional expressions (called affect). More constrained workplace cultures, where employees suppress or hide their feelings tend to be less creative, and less able to function collaboratively. The study showed that emotionally authentic teams provide “greater information elaboration” – in other words, they were able to discuss ideas more thoroughly since no one was withholding negative feelings out of a fear of retaliation or discipline. By being open to one another’s emotions – including the negative ones – teams were able to work through one another’s emotional responses, generating better ideas and insights along the way.
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Establishing Your Company’s Emotional Culture
Unfortunately, a team authentic affect climate isn’t formed overnight. Every company has an emotional culture, but if your managers have not been working to maintain openness, that culture may be one of emotional suppression and distrust. Many managers shy away from addressing employees’ emotions at work. However, doing so may make workers feel like they are irrelevant or not important to their company.
Instead, managers and leaders must make emotional authenticity a priority of the company. You may include emotional health in your mission statements or team goals. However, you will also need to follow up on making your company’s emotional culture a priority. Other forms of workplace culture are more cognitive, and can be conveyed with written policies. But an emotional culture is conveyed more subtly – through body language, facial expressions, and making space for emotional expression. As a manager, it is up to you to set the model for emotional acceptance, and to ensure your employees respect the emotions of others on your team.
What Are Your Employees’ Emotions Saying About Your Company?
An important part of using emotion to your company’s advantage comes from your own ability to learn from the emotions you see around you. Your employees may not recognize what is triggering their emotions. As a manager, you can help them identify the source of their feelings, and respond to them. Both positive and negative emotions can communicate important messages about workplace satisfaction.
If your team is excited it means they have bought in to the company’s goals and vision. They are demonstrating a commitment to the cause. However, universal excitement can create a lack of skepticism, and could result in a poorer work product in favor of furthering the team’s objectives.
When employees are angry, it can be a sign that someone or something has violated an important value. As a manager, you should determine whether that anger is caused by a violation of the company’s values, or the individual’s standards. You can respond to employees’ anger by recognizing employees’ needs for boundaries and helping them identify the important value they feel has been compromised.
Workers often express frustration in the workplace when policies, procedures, or personnel are interfering with their ability to get their work done. Frustration can be caused by a rigidity in thinking that prevents employees from finding other possibilities to solve their problems. As a manager, you can remove unnecessary roadblocks and resolve employees’ frustration.
If your team is feeling overwhelmed, it can lead to burnout and even employee turnover. Overwhelm is a sign that your workers’ energy is being spread too thin. As a manager, you can look at assignments and work loads to see if there are ways to shift obligations and let other team members share the burden.
Employees are unlikely to openly express feelings of inadequacy unless they trust the team they are working with. However, many workers feel inadequate, experience “imposter syndrome” or otherwise feel like they are not up to the tasks demanded of them. As a manager, you can help bridge the gap between your workers’ current skill levels, and the tools they need to succeed. By offering mentoring, training, and encouragement, you can help your employees feel like a contributing part of the team.
Managers can do a lot to use emotion to your company’s advantage, and make your workplace an emotionally welcoming environment for your team. By accepting and addressing your employees’ emotions without judgment, you can build trust and in turn help them to improve their team’s creativity.
David Stanislaw is a leadership and executive coach with over 30 years’ experience helping managers and leaders manage teams effectively through emotional intelligence and strategic modeling. Contact us to meet with David and start building your emotional intelligence today.