positive and negative emotions at work

No, really. Let's talk about feelings (positive AND negative emotions) in the workplace. Why? Well, because, you know. We all have them. They affect everything we do and don't do. And if you're a Leader in YOUR workplace, you need to be familiar with the kind of feelings YOU'RE having, that are, without a doubt, affecting your Team.

Positive and negative emotions at work

Have you ever walked into an office or meeting and even though no-one's speaking, it's CLEAR that there is "something going on"...it feels tense, or as if someone is angry; or if you're lucky, it feels exciting and upbeat for some reason. Maybe you've noticed on certain days when someone in the Team is a little off their game, it seems to somehow contaminate everyone around them. Most of us would reason that when we "read" or respond to others around us like this, we are picking up on the subtle body language at play - and to a certain extent I agree! But there is plenty of research that now proves we are actually reading and responding at a neurological level, to the emotion of the others in the roomas well - just as they are responding to us.

As journalist and author Lynne McTaggart puts it, we are all like walking television monitors and broadcast stations at the same time. We have our own emotions, which are prompted by our thoughts, our beliefs, values and attitudes and the way we are processing the world around us - as well as in some cases, physical factors. Those emotions have been proven to be "contagious" in several ways, to those around us. (I know, it sounds a little woo-woo, but you can read the research by respected researchers Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee here.) So we "broadcast" our emotions to those around us - and we also pick up on the emotions of others like a TV screen. We are in constant open feedback loops with those around us. You've often suspected it to be true, haven't you? Well it is - and the research abounds to prove it.

Which leads us to a really interesting question - what's this got to do with YOU as a Leader?

I guess you have two choices there, either it means nothing and we can all just get on with our days or it means a LOT and can inform your Leadership style to become more effective. I choose to believe the latter.

Here's what I know for sure. When I carefully choose my attitude and outlook before a meeting, it always goes better. When I remember that I'm doing business with other beautiful, fragile, strong, stubborn and ultimately vulnerable HUMAN BEINGS (not machines!), I make sure to take responsibility for the emotional state I'm bringing to an interaction. This might mean taking a few deep breaths and mentally going to my happy place (always a beach!) before a meeting I'm stressed about; it might mean recognising and owning the unpleasant feelings I am having about a colleague (could you DO something about that breath please?!) and looking for ways to view their actions with more tolerance or compassion. And maybe having some breath mints available. Sometimes it even means owning that too, am human (not a machine!) - and it would be best for everyone concerned if we reschedule our meeting so I don't do something rash and bring out an inner demon or two (believe me, they are not as attractive as the girl in the photo above).

When you realise that the energy you bring to the room affects your colleagues, and ultimately your outcomes when working with them, you have to ask - am I going to lead, or am I going to follow? Am I going to take responsibility the best way I can for my state; own my ups and downs, give myself a break for being human and find ways to feel better in the moment? Or am I just going to go with the tide of emotions in the room and hope no-one pisses me off too much?!

Well, I guess that's up to you.

But I know which one a true Leader will choose.

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About the author 

Catherine Bell

Catherine is a true believer in the power of people to transform organisations - and the world. An inspiring Speaker, Facilitator and Coach, Catherine has spent more than 18 years of her career leading teams and individuals to extraordinary performance. She has worked as a Consultant, Trainer and Human Resources Manager with some of the largest service organisations in the world, both in Australia and internationally.