Understanding Emotions in the Workplace

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Understanding emotions in the workplace are necessary to help employees to survive, thrive, getting motivated, avoiding danger, making decisions as well as build understanding to connect with themselves and others. With these many functions and continual experiences, it’ becomes obvious that they constitute an inseparable part of our lives that impact our behaviors, interactions, productivity, and decisions at the workplace.

There are both positive and negative emotions shown by the employees at the workplace, but research finds that the most common of them are the negative emotions, which include, frustration, worry, dislike, unhappiness, and anger. Researchers suggest that these negative emotions lead employees to disconnect them from their work which further affects their commitment and engagement with the organization.  

Also, these emotions are a much bigger challenge for today’s workforce as change is imperative within any and every organization. The workforce is also getting more and more diverse with people from all backgrounds and different cultures coming together to serve under one organization. To deal with all such situations thrown up by the current organizational structures, it has become all the more important to understand, control, and learn how to manage our emotions.

Furthermore, employees often work with what professionals call “emotional labor” in certain industries (such as sales, flight attendant, etc) where they are required to express only the “right” or positive emotions at the workplace and researchers have found that this can result in burnout and loss of productivity. Hence, to cope with this aspect, researchers have come up with two strategies of acting. First is the surface acting, where employees engage in a superficial display of emotion without actually feeling that emotion, and the second is deep acting, where employees actually work on to modify their emotions so that they can align with the expected emotion, a particular organization wants them to display.

A traditional viewpoint of understanding the occurrence of emotions was the intensity of events and hassles faced by the employees, but recently it has been seen that emotions at the workplace are determined by the frequency of these events that manifest which further affects the mood and attitudes of the employees. 

An effective way to learn these moods and attitudes for the eventual success of any organization is given by Weiss and Cropanzano, where they argue that specific events in the workplace that help the fulfillment of workplace goals lead to what they call as positive “affective events.”  These positive events thus help to build a long-term commitment, job satisfaction, and organizational loyalty within the employees. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability of any person to understand, manage and regulate their own as well as other’s emotions. At the workplace, this not only affects the well-being of individuals, but also the outcomes of the organization, such as conflict resolution and performance.

Hence, for the past three decades organizations are trying to build this intelligence into their employees and they have come up with two strategies to build this intelligence into the employees. First, including strategies teaching to prepare and manage employees for emotional situations, and second teaching strategies included helping others in managing their emotions. 

Understanding emotions in the workplace through the lens of leadership

Other than determining how effective the leader is managing employees and taking decisions, emotion also plays a major role in determining the relationship between leader and employees as well as the emotional climate of the organization.

Firstly, with “emotional contagion” afflicting the organization, the employees working under or with them do begin to mimic their emotions (can be seen by mimicking facial expressions, body language, and even the tone of the voice) as well as other’s emotions in the team. Given the effect of this modeling, the role of leaders becomes more crucial in managing emotions as by being a positive influence they can build a positive emotional climate in the workplace. Furthermore, leaders can use this to boost employee morale.

Secondly, how effectively they can help employees with negative effect situations, such as burnouts. Here, transformational leadership tries to understand employees as well as build positive effects on them by affirmations and other strategies that lead to optimism and increased productivity. 

Finally, leaders can also take a potential “dark side” of emotions, where they use emotions to emotionally manipulate employees to work even on weekends and even on projects that are not part of their expected roles. This can obviously result in some counterproductive behaviors such as increased turnover.

The effect of emotions at the workplace includes the well-being of employees as well as the overall effectiveness of the organization. Understanding how emotions affect the group processes and performance of the employees can help to build better strategies to manage these emotions. 

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