Emotions and Social Networks

We’ve all either have told someone or have been told by someone that “this is not personal it’s business”.  The concept of keeping personal stuff personal and work stuff at the workplace is now becoming a thing of the past.

According to the Business Insider you can now throw caution to the wind and blur the lines.  They report that our emotions aren’t controlled anyway (even if we are trying to control them) and are already affecting our co-workers.  A recent Gallup Poll analysis shows that our well being has an impact on the people we work with and on the people who work for us.

The poll’s results suggest that emotion travels over social networks in much the same way viruses do.

The study included 105 teams and 1,740 individuals whose well being was measured in three six-month intervals. The average team size was 22 members, and the minimum team size was five members.

Researchers Nicholas Christakis M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James Fowler, Ph.D., showed in additional research that emotion travels over social networks in much the same way viruses do. Harter purports, “Based on this previous research, we expected to see that the well being connection within teams would be much stronger than that among employees who were not members of the same team.  But the surprising finding was that the relationship between supervisors’ well being and that of their direct reports grew substantially over time.

The study’s results suggest that the mental state of a person’s boss will influence the individual’s mental state; therefore, an employee’s attitude is a direct reflection of their boss’ attitude.  So, being a good boss has a positive and most likely productive influence on the company.  Whereas being a negative boss will have a negative impact on the company.

Agrawl, a gallup research manager, expounds, “…meaning that individuals are likely influenced by the shared culture of their team.”  Harter continues, “There is plenty of evidence that wellbeing is shared within existing formal and informal networks and that it spreads based on social ties.

What kind of boss do you have?  Does your workplace attitude reflect your boss’ attitude?

2 responses to “Emotions and Social Networks”

  1. Keith D. says:

    I’ve had a mix of bosses over the course of my life– some good, some bad, some awful, and some incredibly great. My current boss (and several of my past bosses) have fallen more in the middle. The one I have now is on the better side of average, but he still has some weaknesses (I mean no offense by this boss! I just see areas where you can improve and make your company more effective still– and that’s a good thing!).

    I realized back in around 2007 or so that I don’t need to depend on my boss to make my company or my job better (because up until that time, I was just like the subjects of these studies where I reflected my own boss’s over all attitude)– instead, I can just take up the necessary leadership position on my own and deal with the hand I’m dealt without having to wait for someone to give me the job or title.

    So, now what I do is look around at my company when I’m working and identify what people’s individual strengths and weaknesses are, and try to do my job in a way which caters to each person’s strengths, while I facilitate others and also help on my own to mitigate each others’ weaknesses. This makes the company as a whole stronger, and all of the employees perform their jobs better, which then helps everyone enjoy their job and their work more which causes them to want to do it better of their own accord, and reduces the various stress factors that are inevitable when you’re the boss running the company, which then mitigates some of his (or her) weaknesses and sets him (or her) up to be more willing to improve himself, and in turn, his company, and enables him to be more successful at this task that he doesn’t really even know he’s undertaking because of me. But really, what I do was most effective when I had a boss who also understood what I was doing, and helped me to do it even better.

    I know, it’s all a bit underhanded on the surface of it, but if other people either won’t, or don’t know how to pick up the ball and run with it, and I do know, then it really falls on me to do so. So I do (it’s sort of a Taoist “wu wei” approach).

    I also realize how important the little things are to people’s well-being, and since I’m not in a position to do any big things on my own, not being management and just being around the lowest on the totem pole, I take it upon myself to do as many of those little things as I can. Things as little as just spending $5-10 a week on little treats that I hand out to everyone whenever I’m working. I’m not going to starve by doing that, but the difference it makes in the attitudes of my fellow co-workers MORE than makes up for it in terms of customer retention and word-of-mouth advertising when our store’s employees are noticeably happier than the employees of other stores within our franchise. It really is an investment, and it’s been a very sound investment over the past few years too, always paying off much higher dividends every pay period than what I put into it– I doubled my income in less than a year without a single actual pay increase.

    For me, success has never been hard to achieve in whatever I do– I guess I’ve just been blessed with the ability to figure out how things really work, and to find simple but effective ways of improving them once I do. Whenever employees from the other stores in our franchise have worked to fill in shifts at our store, they’ve universally remarked about how much nicer of a place it is to work, even when sometimes the manager at our store was one they’d worked for before at their own store. And our store’s employees all realize after working at the other stores that ours is the best one to work at by far. They rarely know what to attribute that difference to, and I don’t tell them– I only teach them and guide them to find the solutions on their own– but I know the reason for it. The only reason I’m sharing this here now is because I want people to realize that you don’t have to have authority or a title or money or anything to lead people– you only need to lead them. Anyone can do that, even the person who cleans the toilets or takes out the garbage, or in my case, who delivers some of the pizzas.

    I don’t think it’s particularly hard to be successful in business– you just have to realize that your employees aren’t human “resources”, and your customers aren’t profit-bearing trees– in both cases, they’re human beings much like yourself. And then you just treat them accordingly.

    This research doesn’t surprise me in the least bit, but I’m definitely adding it to my collection of studies that in some way identify and verify my methods whenever I try to explain them to people who think they know more than I do and won’t give me the time of day because I don’t have a title or an office or a business of my own– I’m just one of the little hourly wage-earners that they think are the problem.

    The solutions to many of our problems really are incredibly simple and easy. I saw that a lot when I worked as a chauffeur and realized how little more effort and time it took a 5-star resort or restaurant to do what it did vs. what a minimum wage employee at a fast food place or gas station typically does at a business that regularly makes a lot of mistakes. The actual difference in effort is so abysmally tiny considering how huge the differences in results are.

    Apologies for going off on such an apparent tangent, but it seems relevant to me.

  2. Keith – Once again it is a great pleasure to hear your thoughts and personal experience with this topic. It is beneficial to take the ideas, concepts, and information from Humintell’s blog and relate them to real world applications.

    It is good that you pointed out that the little things do matter and can make a difference in overall office moral (perhaps in life as well). Thank you

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