Managing Emotions in the Workplace – Latest Findings

In A League of Their Own, a memorable 1992 film about a lesser-known part of American baseball history, Tom Hanks, while berating a female player, remarks, “ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” The bottom line is that both business and baseball have emotional pivots and feelings bubble up everywhere.

Think of the Fall Classic, FIFA Championships or even an IPO launch – true melting pot of emotions. Any industry can arouse as much emotion in its employees as any sporting activity in its fans. Emotions rule our daily lives. We all have different emotional and psychological needs that cannot be ignored, over-controlled or abused. Cultivating awareness of these needs brings us closer to steps leading to their satisfaction. Emotions are generally not given free rein in any company, as uncontrolled employee emotions can negatively impact the productivity, sensitivity and focus of other staff members.

Employees with hurt feelings and hurt egos either retreat into closed shells to avoid co-workers or act as agents of sabotage. They love to skip deadlines, not contribute to meetings and even belittle the clients. However, it is believed that nine times out of ten such behavior is unconscious and can mean huge losses to the company in terms of market control, financial well-being and employee turnover. There is an old Chinese saying, “If people prevent their emotions from catching up with their rationality, it is called reason. If people prevent their rationality from catching up with their emotions, it is called compassion.

When persons can do both, it is called wisdom.” It needs hardly be stressed that in modern organizational culture any hint, expression or application of emotion is considered implausible and useless. In 2002, Michael Kramer and Jon Hess, communication scientists from the University of Missouri-Columbia, conducted a major study on the display of emotions in organizational settings and found that a) good emotional management is key to professionalism, b) both negative and positive emotions should be revealed in appropriate ways, and c) masking the negative emotions is an appropriate representation of them. Oddly enough, respondents even believed that positive emotions should also be conveyed in moderation. Employees advocated such masking of feelings when someone was promoted or given a walk, especially because a colleague may have missed The entire contact center industry again visibly ponders how the agent force deftly manages their emotions and clings to only the positive, no matter what the situation. Performance in business or any other activity is influenced by feelings.

All other skills and techniques are lost if the ability to control one’s feelings is not available. Top performers know very well that it is the mind that towers over technical or material means. From Martina Navratilova to Maria Sharapowa, for example in tennis, every great athlete has battled it out not so much on the court, but in his head. Mental toughness is so essential to productivity that we still largely overlook it in employee training programs. Nervousness, suspicion, fear and anger are such negative emotions that can be effectively controlled through mental skills training schemes. All organizations are emotional sites and good leadership is purely about emotional management. Professional success, according to recent research, is due more to emotional intelligence or EQ than to cognitive intelligence. Our ability to efficiently recognize, interpret and respond to our own emotions and those of our colleagues shapes our EQ. Daniel Goleman, in his 1999 book Working with Emotional Intelligence, considers EI distinct but complementary to academic intelligence or IQ.

Bruce Cryer, vice president, global business development, for HeartMath of Boulder Creek, California, and co-author of From Chaos to Coherence: Advancing Emotional and Organizational Intelligence Through Inner Quality Management (1998), pushes Goleman’s ideas one more level higher. He points out: “From proven biological models, we now know that emotional intelligence is not just a new twist on relaxation techniques, but is about genuinely increasing a person’s internal coherence and balance. There is no longer any doubt that our emotional states influence our brain and the ability to process information.” Both employees and bosses with a high EQ are adept at maintaining a positive atmosphere, adapting to change, interacting with others while sympathizing with them. The higher one rises in a professional setting, the greater the role of emotional intelligence.

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In the words of Dr. Stein, CEO of Multi-Health Systems, a North Tonawanda, New York-based company that deals with psychological assessments for professionals, “IQ gets you hired – it’s what brings you in. EI is what helps you climb up the ladder.” However, the fascinating side is that unlike IQ, our emotional skills can always be learned and improved when we really want to. Goleman says, “Emotional competencies determine how we manage ourselves…[and] social competencies determine how we manage relationships.” A 2007 study by Multi-Health Systems has suggested that stress can impair emotional intelligence and effectiveness in the workplace. Nearly 53 percent of the 1,014 employees surveyed believed that stress undermined their relationships with colleagues harms and 43 percent noted it often impacts their workplace decision-making as much as their productivity.

Despite several studies on the benefits of emotional intelligence, the facts are often routinely ignored by those in authority and in command. A typical persistence among leaders in old patterns of coercion and intimidation leaves most employees in a demoralized state that reluctantly elicits compliance. Take Vipul, an online media manager at a social media agency. After spending six tough years in his company, he managed to get top ratings for benchmarked contributions year after year. A horrible car accident now left him struggling with pain and mounting medical bills. However, when Vipul told his head of marketing that he might need a 5 week recovery leave, he got the shock of his life. “Such a prolonged absence from work could really spark a debate at the upcoming budget meeting, when I would argue for increased media allocations.” Instead of issuing a reassuring “I’m-there-to-figure-out statement” as he complied with the furlough request, a message of sheer apathy was issued by the boss. Needless to say, the company lost a dedicated performer from its reels that day.

In short, it is a gross mistake to ignore the motivations, inputs and intellect of other individuals in a company. An I-don’t-care or I-am-the-bottomline-head-here attitude may be technically valid, but it is harmful to adopt when dealing with employees in any organizational setting. What employees need, especially those with in-depth knowledge of their field, is to be heard and their opinions valued by others. Opportunities are missed, results are less effective and resources are wasted when despondent employees lose their commitment and motivation. Existing studies collectively establish that emotions or, precisely, Emotional Intelligence shapes human behavior in various areas, including at work, in the community, and in schools. On an individual level, it appears to be related to job performance, our ability to communicate effectively, build meaningful interpersonal relationships, solve everyday problems, school performance, and even our ability to make moral decisions. Admitting that EI is possible to enhance our understanding of how individuals behave and how they adapt to their social environment, it represents an area of ​​immediate concern for HR managers and practitioners.

They must integrate the importance of EI-based capabilities into organizational functions. The findings of a 1997 study Competency assessment methods: History and state of the art by Spencer, McClelland & Kelner were interesting. A survey of 300 top executives from 15 global companies revealed that six emotional competencies separated the top performers from the average: organizational awareness, team leadership, self-confidence, achievement drive, leadership, and influence. There is ample data to suggest that emotionally intelligent leadership is the means to create a work environment that nurtures employees and encourages them to give their best. The resulting enthusiasm, in turn, increases overall business performance.

This dribbling effect was noted, for example, in Daniel Williams’ Leadership for the 21st Century study involving CEOs of US insurance companies. Comparable-sized companies whose CEOs showed more EI competencies showed better fiscal results, calculated by both growth and profit. HR professionals and managers in general need to be especially careful not to view their emotions and moods as things that just ‘happen’. They need to understand that moods and emotions both affect performance, behavior and relationships on an individual and organizational level. Before dealing with the emotional state of others, they must know and manage their own emotional situation. No good organization can claim complete freedom from emotional pain. However, this vital element should always be monitored and mastered by HR personnel in general and everything else in particular in any workplace.

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Bad emotional experiences always take their toll in terms of thwarted problem solving, innovation, engagement, creativity, and productivity. Diversity in appearance, dietary habits, beliefs, thought patterns, reactions, choices and so on define each workplace. Nothing is easier to deal with than to honor it. HR people must ensure that employees have the means to express their diverse beliefs and opinions. To encourage and foster a healthy emotional climate among employees, HR managers should:

1) promote open communication and honest feedback.

2) Emphasize that it’s okay to talk about emotion within the organization.

3) indicate that thinking aloud among team members is okay.

4) inform executives that it is not a sin to admit that some of management’s ideas may be flawed.

5) organize standardized training on emotional intelligence and competence building.

6) emphasize the value of forming emotional bonds with one’s assigned task.

7) emphasize the benefits of maintaining informal, happy and positive workspaces.

Emotional intelligence should be an important criterion when recruiting candidates, along with other relevant technical skills or business knowledge. In the case of promotions and succession planning, EI should be a decisive factor, especially if leadership roles are envisaged. Even when selecting and caring for people with good potential, EI should be emphasized. Similarly, training and development programs should promote EI. Whether through an emotional release session or team building exercises, the fact is that more and more CEOs today are donning the hat of counselors to their staff. The greatest need for all leaders and business owners is to ensure that negative emotions do not lead to negative spaces and negative consequences within organizations. Unleashing a culture of positivity and openness is key to effective emotion management in any company.