Monday, 16 January 2012

2012 resolution: get a handle on emotion and mood in the workplace

Find ways to cope with problematic moods

You don't need to be a believer in Blue Monday (thank goodness) to feel that January isn't the happiest month in the calendar. Here are some steps to smarter mood management.

1. Take into account the emotional legacy of positive and negative events at work. This might mean rescheduling a challenging meeting that follows a day of inordinate strain. Note that people can differ in how much of an 'emotional hangover' they feel, so be especially sympathetic to those hit harder.

2. Decide on how to manage anger in the workplace. Contrary to what some may think, this doesn't necessarily mean taking a zero-tolerance approach; in fact, evidence suggests that tolerating some outbursts of anger - especially in response to perceived injustices - is a good way to allow  organisational problems to surface. However, anger imposed on others habitually is a sure way to dampen creativity. Consider what is needed in your organisation.

3. Tolerate benign envy, but combat the toxic type - a little bit of emotional response to others' successes can buck us up and push us further ourselves. But when it threatens to impede work relationships, it's time to take a deep breath and let it go.

4. Put cynicism aside in favour of a healthy, balanced caution in negotiations. There is evidence that defaulting to distrust in negotiation situations can not only result in poorer outcomes overall but also harm the cynic's self-interests. The solution isn't naivety, but rather recognising that trust can open up opportunities for clear-headed scrutiny.

Actively leverage emotion abilities

Understanding our 'Emotional Intelligence' (EI) and deploying it in the workplace is an idea that will be familiar to many. These resolutions, then, take us a bit deeper into the implications of trying to leverage our capacity to understand and manage emotions.

5. Take better EI measurements and weigh its relevance using evidence. EI is a surprisingly controversial concept in research circles, so if you're going to rely on it, review the types of measures and what they have been proven to predict. Moreover, job applicants have inflated self-ratings of EI compared to the (presumably more honest) job incumbents - so be especially cautious if comparing scores across such groups, such as when comparing internal and external candidates.

6. Get better at expressing emotions to influence others. There is increasing evidence that showing your emotions can influence others and lead to better work outcomes, so think about how effectively you do this. Note this is not a prescription to pretend to feel emotions to get things done - the research is clear that such surface acting is if anything counterproductive.

7. Review how employees or colleagues use emotions in their day-to-day activities. Some interesting light was shed by a recent study of doctor's receptionists, revealing how their job requires them to constantly manage their emotions. If you consider how this might be true also in your organisation, you can make this clear to prospective employees and have a more informed position to help people currently struggling with these demands.

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