“There has been an important finding in neuroscience that should impact on how every leader leads – emotions are contagious. Employees are not emotional islands. Rather, they continuously spread their own moods and receive and are influenced by others’ moods. When they work in groups, they literally can catch each others’ emotions like viruses, a phenomenon known as emotional contagion.” University of Pennsylvania.
Emotional contagion is a three-step process through which one person’s feelings transfer to another person. The first stage involves non-conscious mimicry, during which individuals subtly copy one another’s nonverbal cues, including movements, posture and facial expressions such as a frown. People may then experience a feedback stage–because you frowned, you now feel sad. During the final stage, individuals share their experiences until their emotions and behaviors become synchronized. Mimicry is not all bad; a person can also adopt a friend or colleague’s good mood, which can help enhance their bond.
A 2005, University of New Hampshire study showed that the leader’s moods permeated the groups and that “negative” moods trumped the positive ones. Employees take notice of their leaders’ emotions, and therefore, leaders strongly influence the mood of the team, and their attitudes and performance. A team may develop a “group mood” that reflects the mood of its manager
Research has also shown that:
- A positive mood can boost performance. Both positive and negative moods may affect performance, but positive moods have a stronger effect.
- The mood you bring to work affects performance more than moods caused by changes during the workday.
- Wives were not affected significantly by their spouse’s stress. Husbands, however, experienced lower marital satisfaction when their wives reported higher stress. Marriage researchers Neff and Karney
- Women reported being in negative moods about twice as often as men, even though they also report more intense joy than men. University of Illinois.
- The more emotionally expressive people are, the more apt they are to transmit their moods to someone they talk with. Dr. John Cacciopo, Ohio State University.
- Each happy friend increased an individual’s chances of personal happiness by 11%, while just one sad friend was all that was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy. Research from Biophysicist, Allison Hill.
According to an old Chinese Medicine passage, we need to be aware of the dangers of catching “Evil Qi” from those around us.
Emotions abound during the holidays. Holidays can be a challenging time of year at the office because to greater and lesser degrees, we’re all affected by the added pressures of year end, additional responsibilities, crowded social schedules, and spending time with family. If you’re a sensitive person around an emotionally out-of-balance team during the Holidays, you hit the unfortunate “Evil Qi” trifecta.
Here are the four emotional states you might spot at the office:
- Calm, relaxed—Employees experience less conflict and feel they perform better. Workers are most likely to “catch” this state from colleagues.
- Stressed out, anxious—Frustration, anger and hostility also can mark this second-most-contagious state.
- Cheerful, high-energy—Like the calm state, workers tend to be more cooperative. But compared with the above two states, calm or stress trumps cheerful.
- Sluggish, low-energy—A dull, lethargic state that workers are least likely to catch from colleagues.
Leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the culture that their team works in, promotes health and productivity. Leaders need to take note of the mood of their team and their own mood to ensure that it is a positive influence. Here are a few tips on managing moods at work :
- Self-awareness is the first step toward bringing moods under control. Consider keeping a journal of your moods and the circumstances are involved. This will help you understand their causes.
- Avoid triggers for unpleasant emotions. If a team member seems to have a new complaint each time you walk by his desk, don’t stop to chat.
- Make an effort to arrive at work in an upbeat frame of mind. Change your routines if you are irritated by the rush-hour traffic or long lines at a popular coffee shop. Listen to lively music during your commute so you would arrive in a better frame of mind.
- Watch your body language. Research has shown that when people are trying to “read” someone’s mood they rely heavily on that person’s body language for cues. So make sure your posture, gestures, and facial expressions send the right signals.
- Avoid imitating someone’s negative body language when you want to send a positive message.
- Pay attention to the tone of your e-mail and phone messages. Remember that you convey how you’re feeling not only in person but also on the phone and in your written communications. Make sure you convey the mood you intended in telephone conversations, e-mail, and other forms of communication.
- Keep an eye on the “group mood” of your team. The mood of a team holds clues to its well-being. If everyone in your group seems to be in a bad mood, there may be a work-related problem you need to resolve.
- Minimize the amount of time you spend among those who are negative. Avoiding may be impossible, but minimizing the time can help to protect you so build in breaks during difficult meetings and add in some energizers that can boost everyone’s mood.
- Be proactive about managing your moods. Learn a few stress-management techniques that may help you avoid negative moods altogether like deep breathing, visualization or progressive muscle relaxation. Mood lifters may also include talking to a special friend, listening to music, going for a walk or enjoying some quiet time or a hot tea.
- Take care of your health. Bad moods can have physical causes, including hunger, fatigue, and chronic or intermittent pain, such as a headache.
Emotions are contagious. Finding ways to foster positive emotions and deterring and deflecting negative emotions can bring about engaged, successful and healthy teams.
Like this topic? Bring Beverly to your team:
Handling Negative Attitudes and Difficult People
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