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Emotions At Work: Secret Uses for Positive Culture

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Your emotions are important – everywhere. Although you don’t usually associate emotion with the workplace, the two are inextricably connected. So much of your life is invested in your job that it makes sense that it’s also where you experience a broad spectrum of feelings – joy, satisfaction, anger, resentment, and stress, to name just a few. Because your emotions influence your behavior and productivity, you need to manage them and understand the emotions of other people around you. 

Emotional intelligence is vital for the 21st-century workplace. No savvy organization can morally or intellectually expect employees to behave like drones. Not only do individuals need to understand the role of emotions, but companies must develop cultures that do more than facilitate productivity, they must promote emotional awareness. 

Related: 5 Best Change Management Books of 2021

The Most Common Workplace Emotions

How do you most often feel at work? Here are some common emotions felt by many employees throughout the workday:

  • Enthusiasm 
  • Satisfaction
  • Comfort
  • Frustration
  • Stress
  • Anxiety 

The Most Common Positive Emotions

Examples of other positive emotions in the workplace include peace, relaxation, calm, energy, excitement, happiness, and joy. These emotions increase your creativity and make you more resilient and resourceful. Positive emotions also enhance and broaden your cognition. It’s easy to see how this benefits your workplace with increased productivity and social engagement. 

Here are some positive emotions and how they affect the workplace:  

  • Gratitude. This may be expressed as thankfulness to co-workers for tasks accomplished or kindness, or gratitude you feel for having a good job where you can develop valuable skills.
  • Joy. You may demonstrate joy when celebrating work-related milestones or achievements, the birthdays of co-workers, or even work social opportunities. 
  • Curiosity. Interest can lead you to explore new skills, ideas, or methods of work. Curiosity will also improve social connections and even your memory. 
  • Pride. Having your accomplishments openly acknowledged will give a sense of pride, motivating you to do more work. These acknowledgments may be for team leadership, performance beyond expectations, or your consistent contribution. It may also be about feeling pride in others for how they have performed. 
  • Peace under pressure. The workplace is full of stress and pressure for many reasons and from various sources. But the ability to remain calm and productive under pressure will aid your workplace and your mental health.
  • Optimism. A workplace of people who have positive expectations of the future is an effective and energetic workforce. People who feel optimistic overcome setbacks better, believing that circumstances can improve no matter how dire. 
  • Amusement. We all know how refreshing a good laugh can be – even in the workplace. Finding humor in situations can disarm tension and stress and also creates feelings of connection with co-workers. People who feel connected work better together.   

Related: Team Relationships: How to Understand & Improve Them

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Employee Engagement and Emotions

It’s important to note that every company has an emotional culture, even if it’s a culture of emotional suppression. While cognitive culture, which relates to shared intellectual values and influences how workers think and behave, is conveyed explicitly and overtly, emotional culture may not be. Emotional culture, which has to do with acceptable emotional expressions, is most often conveyed to workers by non-verbal cues, like facial expressions and body language

Negative Emotions Instead of Positive Ones

Unfortunately, companies don’t manage emotional culture nearly as intentionally as they do cognitive culture. When companies don’t facilitate a positive emotional culture, they open the door to negative emotions. For instance, organizations where compassion is needed, as in healthcare, can become callous and indifferent. In other groups where you might expect a jovial environment, instead, employees are working in an atmosphere of anger. Still, in other organizations like investment banks, where one might rightly expect healthy fear, instead you find recklessness and disregard for safe parameters.  

Negative Emotions in the Workplace 

Sadly, many people are well-associated with the many negative emotions that the workplace produces. Some of those emotions are easy to understand, like an annoyance, boredom, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction, sadness, intimidation, stress, or worry.  

More complex and more complicated to dismiss emotions include humiliation, resentment, guilt, shame, or regret. These are known as moral emotions because they are associated with your moral values. Your morals are the standards of behavior you believe to be right and wrong. Morals vary between individuals. So your moral emotions are those attached to behaviors that you have evaluated to be right or wrong. These emotions have deep roots and can erode the mental health of employees who suffer under them for too long.  

Tips for Cultivating a Positive Emotional Culture

When people feel comfortable sharing their feelings – positive and negative, they tend to be more productive and creative. Here are tips for companies for creating positive emotional cultures: 

Remove the Fear

When people are afraid to speak up about their emotions, they’re also afraid to speak up about other things as well, like their ideas. Your company will benefit from making people confident that their voices will be heard. 

Let Them Be Heard

Provide opportunities for employees to speak. Ask them how they are feeling and be prepared for honest responses. Consider regular ‘listening meetings.’

Look for Signals

While negative emotions are not pleasant, they are signals that shouldn’t be ignored or suppressed. When they’re expressed, understand the pain the person is experiencing and show compassion. Also, recognize that negative attitudes can mask more extreme emotions like distress or exhaustion.  

Be Yourself and Allow Your Employees to do the Same

Your employees won’t feel free to share their feelings if you don’t. Be an example for them of honest sharing of a range of emotions. 

Don’t Label People

As people share their feelings, avoid labeling them accordingly. People rarely experience only positive or only negative emotions. Being labeled a ‘negative’ person can add to their emotional load. And sometimes, people are voicing the feelings of the team that others are afraid to share. 

Give Them a Break

Even your best, more optimistic employees can burn out. Give them time away from stressful situations or projects and allow them to share their feelings without fear of being labeled or penalized. Also, consider providing wellbeing tools like counseling, massage, acupuncture, therapy, etc. 

Related: 10 Best Tips for Building Trust in the Workplace

Last Thoughts on Emotions at Work

Emotions in the workplace can be challenging to navigate – for the employee and the company. Despite that, when managed correctly, emotions can aid an organization in harnessing a powerful, positive force for the betterment of everyone. 

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