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Cultivating an emotional culture in an organisation

Some employees will experience the desired emotions quite naturally. This can happen in isolated moments of compassion or gratitude. When such feelings arise regularly, that is a sign you are building the culture you want.

Photo Credit : happyho,

To cultivate a particular emotional culture, you will need to get people to feel the emotions valued by the organisation or team - or atleast to behave as if they do. Here are three effective methods


Harness what people already feel 


Some employees will experience the desired emotions quite naturally. This can happen in isolated moments of compassion or gratitude,  When such feelings arise regularly, that is a sign you are building the culture you want. IF people have them periodically and need help sustaining them, you can drive incorporating some gentle nudges during the work day. You might schedule some time for meditation, for instance, or provide mindfulness apps on people's work devices to remind them to simply breathe, relax or laugh: or create a kudos board, where people can post kind words about other employees.


But what can you do about emotions that are toxic to the culture you are striving for? How can you discourage them when they already exist? Expecting people to "put a lid" on those feelings is both ineffective and destructive, the emotions will just come out later in counter productive ways. It is important to listen when employees express their concerns so that they feel they are being heard. That is not to say you should encourage venting or just let the emotions flow with no attempt at solving the root problems. Indeed, research shows that extended venting can lead to poor outcomes. You are better of helping employees think about situations in a more constructive way. For example, Loneliness, which can eat away at employee attitude and performance, is best addressed through cognitive re-appriasal - getting people to re-examine their views of others actions. Considering plausible benign motivations for their colleagues behaviour will make them less likely to fixate on negative explanations that could send them into a spiral.


Model the emotions you want to cultivate


A long time of research on emotional contagion shows that poplin groups catch feelings from others through behavioural mimicry and subsequent changes in brain function. IF you regularly walk into a room smilingly with high energy, you are much more likely to create a culture of Joy then if you wear a neutral expression. Your employees will smile back and start to mean it.


But negative feelings, to, spread like wild fire. If you frequently express frustration that emotion will infact your team members, and their team members, and so on through out the organisation. Before you know it, you will have created a culture of frustration.


So consciously model the emotions you want to cultivate in your company. So organisations go a step further and explicitly ask employees to spread certain emotions. Ubiquity retirement plus savings says, " Inspire happiness with contagious enthusiasm. Own your joy and lend it out, "  Vail resorts says, "Enjoy your work and share the contagious spirit."


Get people to fake it till they feel it


If employees don't experience the desired emotion at a particular moment, they can still help maintain their organisations emotional culture. That is because people express emotions both spontaneously and strategically at work. Social psychology research has long shown that individuals tend to confirm to group norms or emotional expression, imitating others out of a desire to be like and accepted. So employees in a strong emotional culture who would not otherwise feel and express the valued emotion will begin to demonstrate it - Even if their initial motivation is to be compliant rather than to internalise the culture.


This benefits the organisation, not just the individuals trying to thrive in it. In early anthropological studies of group rituals, strategic emotional expression was found to facilitate group cohesion by overpowering individuals feelings and synchronising inter personal behaviour.

Disclaimer: This article was originally published on HappyHo and is republished here with permission.


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