In the era of meaningful and purposeful work, emotions play an essential role in getting our jobs done and collaborating well, with respect and in tune with everyone’s needs.
With this in mind, organizations across the globe are starting to explore the ways in which their stands on emotions, attitudes and personal values – that is, their emotional culture – shape and impact the quality of work and overall job satisfaction. They‘re doing just the right thing.
Let’s try something simple – take a moment to notice how you are feeling right now. How did you wake up and how did your mood change over the day after interacting with colleagues or your close ones?
Now, if you’re reading this at work or surrounded by people, take a closer look at those around you and notice how they feel.
Are your feelings and emotions matching?
Do you share the same mood and create a uniform emotional climate?
Workplaces can be more often and sadly, places where negative feelings travel at the speed of light.
When studying the spread of emotions in large social networks, researchers Fowler and Christakis found out that you have a 25% likelihood of staying happier if you have friends and colleagues who are happy around you.
Emotions are contagious and it can be a great thing when this piece of information is used to bring about positive change at work.
Culture of fear. Freedom of expression versus emotional suppression
Emotions are generally the thing we’re most scared of in the office.
We’ve been taught that emotions are a sign of weakness, that they’re messing our productivity up, and that they shall be controlled, possibly avoided at all costs.
But workplaces are not a case of impersonal, detached performance.
We need to allow ourselves to see emotion as something positive rather than something destructive or turbulent.
And rightly so, decades worth of research shows that when employees feel comfortable expressing their feelings at work, they tend to be more productive, creative and innovative. Makes total sense, since carrying around emotional baggage all day every day can make it harder for all of us to perform, anytime, anywhere.
Getting back to it, every workplace has a stand when it comes to emotions and specifically which emotions are allowed and which are not to be shown under any circumstance. These stands are called emotional cultures and they describe the overall culture that the workplace fosters in terms of emotions, attitudes, and values.
Every organization has an emotional culture since organizations are made up of people and we are emotional beings.
Not encouraging emotional expression is also an emotional culture.
Barsade and O’Neill could not have put it better when saying “every company has an emotional culture, whether it’s a culture of freedom of expression or suppression”.
However, in healthy emotional cultures, employees feel supported to express their emotions in constructive ways, demonstrate empathy and resilience, communicate openly and build connections. That’s what we’re going to focus on.
Culture of feeling. Why integrating emotions in the workplace is important
In their research, Barsade and O’Neill have found that “emotional culture influences employee satisfaction, burnout, teamwork, as well as financial performance”.
In other words,
happy employees generate better ideas and bring more money to the company.
You can even calculate the likely return on investment (ROI) by building EI competencies in your company with this free tool from our partners at Genos.
More and more companies are starting to define and shape their emotional cultures and integrate them into the overall organizational culture. And results are visible on the inside, as well as on the outside.
But since we’re here, let’s take a moment to think about the emotional climate at your office:
What feelings are regularly expressed at work? What feelings aren’t?
Why do you feel like expressing certain feelings while suppressing others?
How do you feel when you’re around your colleagues or the management?
Chances are the answers to these questions show that there is room for improvement. And it’s totally fine!
Since the science of wellbeing at work is constantly evolving and we learn more and more about what makes us have better relationships at and with work, there is always something you can do or pitch to the management that can benefit both the employees and the business.
And getting back to it, here are 3 simple tactics organizations can employ to enhance emotional safety and expression in the workplace:
#1. Mood monitoring and active listening
The concept that people must leave their emotions at the door when entering the office is outdated.
We can no longer pretend that our moods and feelings do not impact our performance. Therefore, using tools that monitor employees’ moods such as mobile apps or daily check-ins, and creating circumstances like regular meetings where employees get the chance to express their concerns or just acknowledge how they feel, are essentials for building up healthier workplace emotional cultures.
Yet for those that do not want to start from a blank page, we offer free of charge Emotional Culture Index Assessments.
The survey measures emotions in the office, in a mix of constructive and unconstructive emotional states, and is designed for teams and leaders that want to get the pulse of their organization’s emotional status. Check it out.
#2. Creating emotional circumstances
Designing experiences and spaces where people can disconnect from work or take a few minutes to acknowledge where they are, physically and emotionally, is incredibly beneficial for the health and emotional wellbeing of an organization.
Something as simple as a few bean bags in a corner, a board where people can leave messages of encouragement and gratitude for each other, or even a fun Emotional Culture Deck session can show that you value people’s emotional health.
This can serve as the foundation for a blooming emotional culture.
#3. Model the emotions you want to cultivate
Walk into the room smiling to create a culture of joy. The principle of emotional contagion as a tool for better emotional cultures is as simple as that: consciously model the emotions you want to cultivate in your company. In other words, be the change you want to see in the world.
It can take a lot of conscious exercises to be able to understand, shape, and effectively manage emotions at work, personal as well as others’. But practising EI is essential for creating healthier workplace cultures where all feel valued and supported.
Embark on this journey today with a free Emotional Culture assessment or schedule an engaging connection-building Emotional Culture Deck session.