Just like we can be affected physically by our coworkers, we can also be affected emotionally. Researchers call this phenomenon “emotional contagion” and it can affect our perceptions, decision making, and performance. Managing emotional contagion is particularly critical during high-stress periods when everyone is working longer and harder, and it will relieve some of the pressure people feel during these times. How can you make sure you impact your workplace for the better?
Sigal Barsade, PhD, professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, conducts research on emotional contagion. He says, “Executives can use their knowledge of the impact of mood contagion to create more positive team dynamics, increase performance, and decrease turnover by consciously managing their own emotions and the emotions they want to spread in their teams.”
He suggests the following:
* Determine whether your own mood is going to be helpful to your team. As an executive, you set the tone for the group.
* Consider what your non-verbal behaviors are conveying, and make sure they’re in alignment with the environment you want to encourage. If your body language is at odds with your message, your team will give more weight to your non-verbal cues.
* Make eye contact with everyone on your team. Others are more likely to catch your positive emotions if you look directly at them.
* Neutralize negative emotions and nip Negative Nellies in the bud. Have an offline discussion with your teammates to get to the root of their issues. During meetings, minimize eye contact with negative people to help keep moods from spreading.
* Create a positive culture. The more positive reinforcement you provide for the behavior you value, the more likely it will become the norm.
Make sure that your team understands that you welcome opposing points of view—as long as the input is constructive and specific. Your goal in managing emotional contagion is not to create a “unicorn and rainbows” workplace. You need people to play devil’s advocate in order to pressure-test ideas and stimulate creative thinking. It’s just much easier to appreciate their contributions when they’re delivered in an environment free of disruptive drama.