Whilst employee moods have a huge influence within teams, as leaders it is really important to understand that our own emotions - consciously or otherwise - will have a significant impact not only on one team, but the entire culture of the business.
The term for this phenomenon is mood or emotional contagion. It specifically describes the tendency of us as humans to absorb, mimic and reflect emotions of those around us. In this blog we are talking about it in the context of the workplace, but the principles can also apply to our personal lives, too.
When it comes to mood contagion, mimicking can be subconscious or conscious, and it can take a long time to manifest or be an instant reaction. Furthermore, it's contagious to three degrees of separation, according to research. In real terms this means that if your colleague's friend's brother is happier (for any reason), their gains may have such an impact that they reach and benefit you. If this piece of research is as valid as is widely suggested, the impact of emotion is truly phenomenal.
How often have you heard friends say something along the lines of ‚ÄòI'm not enjoying work right now but the people are great' or maybe they've said, ‚ÄòI enjoy the work but the office is toxic'?
An article by Pam Kennett for the Association for Business Psychology (ABP) explains that emotions are a crucial aspect of how we experience our working lives and that they are seen as useful markers of optimal wellbeing; experiencing more positive than negative emotions contributes to our happiness.
This might sound pretty obvious - but have you ever considered the impact of mood contagion not only on individual employee happiness and productivity, but on business success too?
The same article cites Barbara Fredrickson's Broaden and Build theory (1998). This theory suggests that we can expand our thought processes through frequent experiences of positive emotions. It also proposes that individuals suggest more, and think more globally or broadly, helping with creative problem solving. This means that positivity in the workplace not only makes us happier, but elevates business performance.
Interestingly, this theory suggests that positive emotions are also an antidote to negative emotions and help us to recover from emotionally difficult or negative situations. They are essentially a springboard, and help us bounce back from experiences we deem negative such as a poor performance review. Frederickson also found that joy and contentment can undo the aftereffect of negative emotions.
The role of your management team
As the title of this blog post suggests, your management or leadership team should play a crucial role in becoming guardians of mood contagion for your company.
Whilst mood can be affected by so many factors, variables and uncontrollable events, your management team is a valuable gatekeeping route to the wider teams. After all, their emotions will have the same trickle down effect that yours do to them.
Your management team will naturally have a good understanding of the mood within each team - with the right tools and understanding, they can maximise positive mood contagion and identify and fix any negative mood contagion before it becomes a widespread issue.
How to manage mood contagion
The first critical tool for management of mood contagion is to accept that you simply cannot have full control over it BUT that having a good awareness of it puts you in great stead to monitor and influence it when necessary.
A subcategory of awareness is being self-aware. Knowing that your mood, good or bad, will filter to your management team and their subsequent teams and using it to your advantage will help set the scene for the entire company culture. Being mindful of this, particularly in moments of high pressure, and being able to self-regulate any excessive negative emotions, will create a trickle-down effect.
When did you last check in with your teams? Not just for top level stand up updates, but on a more personal level?
One of the best ways to understand your teams is by taking the time to truly connect. You cannot fake authenticity and when this genuine connection comes from the top down, it can have an incredibly powerful impact on teams. In addition to mood, it can be beneficial for engagement.
Recognising and acknowledging the challenges your teams are facing can help to alleviate negative emotions, even if there isn't an immediate solution.
Creating balance & offsetting stress
Working to the Broaden and Build theory, consider counteracting known high stress periods with positive experiences.
There's no getting around it, startup culture brings with it a degree of pressure and there will inevitably be stressful, busy periods. Whether it's on a team-by-team basis, or company-wide, recognising these periods of high stress and coming up with a reward or positive experience afterwards can help to create a balance and maintain company culture.
Be mindful to watch out for when high pressure or stressful situations become elongated. When acutely stressful situations become chronic, you're on the fast track to burn out - see our blog post titled ‚ÄòIs stress actually a good thing?' for more here.
Understand your people
Your people will want different things - for some, growth opportunities and challenges will be top of their list, for others it might be personal development or simply improving at what they do to the best of their abilities.
Really understanding your people, what they want and the opportunities currently available to support these goals is key. But it's not an easy feat - especially as some employees may not even quite know exactly what it is they want themselves just yet.
This is where Vyou comes in - Vyou can help both employees and team leaders identify, manage and forecast for mood contagion and many other workplace challenges through a web app focused on self-reflection, webinars and one-to-one human coaching.
Vyou takes the guesswork out of mood contagion amongst the company and helps management and leadership to understand the current mood, its impact on company culture and use it to drive employee fulfilment - and ultimately business success.
Find out more about how Vyou can help you and your team manage mood contagion at work and one of the Vyou team will provide a no-obligation walk through and information sharing session.