Why emotion in the workplace matters and how it impacts the work you do
In the business of change management, emotion matters.
Why? It’s common knowledge that around 70 – 75% business changes fail to meet their intended goals or return on investment. When the failure rate is so high it makes you wonder what exactly causes the failure rate, and why any business bothers to make changes in the first place.
The reality is that oftentimes businesses are not given a choice to change – their external environment changes and with it employees are faced with a classic ‘ride or die’ scenario. Changes come in many forms; an increase in competition or new disruptors entering the market, changing customer expectations, new legislative changes to an industry, or the big one we’re all currently living and facing; a global health pandemic.
There is no mistaking or hiding from COVID19 – it has triggered insurmountable change. From mass scale up of the health sector to treat the sick, completely new product lines in manufacturing and textiles to equip the health sector, to the shut-down or radical pivots of the hospitality, tourism, retail and food service industries, in order to stop the spread. It’s also triggered spikes in demand on supply chain and logistics through to supermarkets requiring these sectors to quickly scale up to meet the change in consumer behaviour. All the while people are experiencing a range of emotions within themselves that they may or may not be equipped to navigate.
Whilst businesses and the people within them may not feel they have a choice of the changes surrounding them, what we do have control of is our own emotions. We can choose how we react to situations that are out of our control. This is easier if you have a tool or technique to manage what you’re feeling – which many of us do not.
In the business of change management we work with leaders and individuals, educating them about how their behaviours impact their business. This is no different to how we communicate leadership as being a direct reflection of the culture they embody as an individual. How we behave, rightly or wrongly depends on how we’re feeling and influences the range of emotions we display towards others.
You see, emotions are as contagious as a yawn. In a recent podcast Brene Brown explains:
- Anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions – that’s why it takes down groups of people, not just individuals
- Calm is also contagious, but it’s a daily intention and practice.
I’m not a researcher or a psychologist, but what I know to be true after 15+ years as a Change specialist, HR practitioner, leader, and small business owner is this:
The seemingly intangible element of human emotion is the key to successful business change. Through understanding our own emotions we understand our behaviours and the subsequent impact this has on our effectiveness in the workplace.
It’s easy in business to only focus on the tangibles; productivity, systems and processes. It’s much harder for your brain to convert what you’re feeling into an emotion (we either lack the vocabulary or the self-awareness). Nor do some of us possess the nous to understand how it is impacting our work, colleagues, business. It’s even harder to articulate how collective emotions – often referred to as group norms or culture – are impacting workplaces.
Unknowingly, unmanaged emotions can work against the changes businesses are trying to implement. Yes, emotions are as intangible as coronavirus is right now but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact. The Harvard Business Review says, “Studies show the significant impact emotions have on how people perform tasks, how engaged and creative they are, how committed they are to their organisations, and how they make decisions.”
A conscious emotional culture encourages individuals to identify their emotions and process them in a healthy and tangible way. The benefit of this type of culture is the power of awareness. At both an individual and collective level it strengthens communication and relationships, improves listening skills, critical thinking and decision making. I like to think of emotional culture as a collective term for self-awareness in the workplace.
People want to talk about how they feel at work, they just don’t know how, and at Number 8 Consulting we believe that spending time and money on this is key to driving successful business changes. For this reason we have partnered with Elephants and Riders to bring our clients the “Emotional Culture Deck”. The “Emotional Culture Deck” is a card game designed to help provide leaders with an insanely simple card-based tool for structured face-to-face conversations about workplace culture, feelings, and employee experience. We design and run facilitated workshops for leaders, project teams and employees so businesses can make sure their strategies and transformation agendas succeed.
If you want to learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck, there are a few ways you can do this:
Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website Free Download
Download the #emotionalcultureworkshop for free here (yes for free but I can also facilitate this workshop for you and your teams if you wanted some help)
You can go through The Emotional Culture Masterclass (like I did), click Masterclass for more info.
If you still have questions, feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org !
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