What is Your Boss Feeling?

Do you know if your boss is happy or sad?

Many managers try to stay professional and prevent their emotions from impacting the workplace, but new research suggests that this is simply not possible. We inevitably pick up on our managers’ emotions, and this recognition can have major effects within the workplace, for both floor managers and top executives.

Dr. Annie Haver, of the Norwegian School of Hotel Management recently completed her doctoral thesis by interviewing hundreds of managers and leadership experts on the role of emotion in the office.

She concluded that suppressed emotions can have a significant impact on workplace culture, because they cannot be fully suppressed: “Emotions are infectious. This means that it is important to equip managers with knowledge about ways of handling their emotions, and how their emotions affect those around them.”

The infectious nature of emotions is no surprise. Five long years ago, we at Humintell wrote about the ways in which groups develop shared emotions. Not only do we begin to feel the same way as our peers, but our brains will actually begin to synchronize at the neurological level.

It is very common, Dr. Haver claimed, for managers to attempt to conceal their emotions, creating a façade that they were in control. This was especially true during the tough times, such as when the organization and management were changing or when the company was cutting costs and staff.

Naturally, both of these situations can have severe impacts on not just the managers, but their employees as well. Perhaps it is natural to put on a face of strength, showing one’s prowess as a leader and protecting employees from uncertainties outside of their control, but this research certainly casts doubt on this tendency.

Not only can employees easily see through such attempts, but it is unhealthy for managers to even try! Dr. Haver asserted that attempting to suppress emotions over time can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease and can actually compromise professional performance.

But what is to be done? Dr. Haver contends that it is necessary to stop suppressing emotions and to create a workplace where emotional discussion and openness become normal. This would involve allowing employees, such as lower level managers, to be open with superiors about negative emotions. She envisioned a workplace where employees can openly discuss concerns they have over, for example, cutting staff.

When managers respond well to such emotion expression, it opens the door to more effectively implementing difficult decisions or handling changing management structures. This also prevents emotional suppression, enhancing work performance and cooperation.

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