Why must you blind me?
Pity me and break the chains
The chains that bind me
Won’t you release me, set me free?
Melancholy Mood, Bob Dylan
In one of my previous posts I had talked about the ABC’s of attitude. Now I would like to go a bit further and talk about emotions (and moods). The two pretty much mean the same thing when used in common conversation, but psychology classifies the two as different.
Emotions are fundamentally feelings (intense) directed at someone of something and are caused by a specific event. For example say your boss snubs you in front of the team, and you feel enraged.
Moods on the other hand are not intense and can come about without a specific stimulus. You walk into office one fine day and just ‘feel down’. Nothing specific would have happened that particular morning, but you just switched off. (You might suddenly find the wall paint depressing, but that is not a real stimulus)
Like it or hate it, emotions and moods are integral to human beings and they impact our work lives. We react emotionally to things at work and that impacts our engagement and productivity. And yes, there is a theory for that too – it is called the Affective Events Theory (AET).
The figure above does a quick summary of the theory. Each of the aspects considered builds upon the previous one to finally impact the job outcomes and consequences.
This covers the overall environment in which the employees function. The work culture and job alignment would fit squarely in this stage. It impacts everything that follows. You could have the smartest employees but a toxic work culture will lead to disengagement and sub-optimal outcomes.
The work environment is something that the leadership team should be focused on. They set the context in which the supervisors and team members function.
Dynamic events are a collection of what happens in the workplace on a daily basis. While the overall environment heavily influences this aspect, but these are the events that employees see on a daily basis. There could be negatives like supervisors without goal clarity giving conflicting instructions, power struggles among supervisors (some companies have this approach as a stated strategy), colleagues who talk more and do less and still are tolerated. Positives could be working with a motivated group meeting targets and receiving recognition for a job well done.
Dynamic events are largely influenced by supervisors and managers. Motivated managers who care about their team members focus on minimizing the negatives while maximizing the positives for their teams and colleagues.
The emotions and moods of employees are affected by the environment and events at the work place. Their own emotional reaction is of course influenced by their attitude and emotional stability.
Too many negative events and a bad work environment can quickly sap away the motivation levels to employees – eventually leading to disengagement and reduced job performance.
So how does one fix this?
Understanding the inter-relations between work environment, work events and employee attitude is key to designing a positive work culture that motivates teams to outperform!
Hiring Right: Like it or not, hiring right holds the key to engaging the employee in the long run. Each organization has a unique culture and hiring people best suited to that culture is critical to success in the long run. Say you are a manager in an aggressive financial services organization that depends on free flow of information among teams. You hire a lone ranger who is excellent at his core tasks but doesn’t believe in communicating with colleagues. It is a recipe for disaster! All the positive events won’t be able to get through to this employee.
Recognition as a habit: Among all the positive events that supervisors, managers, leaders and peers can influence on a daily basis – recognition tops the list. Not rewards – recognition! Recognition has a huge uplifting effect on employee emotions. Timely recognition for jobs well done, supported by peer acceptance of that recognition has a massive positive reinforcement effect on the workforce.
One aspect which is sometimes ignored by managers is the contagion effect of emotions. Since emotions are intense in nature, both the positive and negative are reflected in the individual’s behaviour and can quickly spread within the team.
A boss snubs his team member, she gets angry. Seething with anger she responds with a nasty mail to her colleague who then gets angry and refuses to cooperate in a project initiated by another team member who then gets upset … and so it goes.
On the other hand –
A team member gets recognized for her effort in meeting a tough deadline on a difficult project. She is elated as her colleagues also join in commenting on the recognition she has received. The buoyant team member then helps out a colleague who was struggling with a task, and takes upon herself to go out of her way to help solve a customer issue.
No prizes for guessing which event helps the company to perform better!