Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data

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Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data LoadingADD TO FAVORITES

What role does emotion play in the corporate culture and what does this mean for employee satisfaction and productivity?  One of the world’s top experts explains.

Not everyone is convinced that efforts to create and maintain a positive workplace actually pay off.  However, to Sigal Barsade, a Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the evidence is clear: Companies that want more satisfied employees and stronger performance need to invest in understanding what motivates people in their work lives and pay attention to the emotional side of organizational culture.

Over the past two decades, Barsade has studied a variety of topics, including group affect, emotional contagion, and loneliness in the workplace.  Through her research, Barsade has found that emotions influence not just employee wellness and engagement, but also business outcomes such as productivity and profitability.  These findings have implications for startups and larger organizations alike and are relevant to everyone, from the senior management team to front-line workers.

When management theorists generally speak about organizational culture, they speak about a recognized and acknowledged set of cognitions viewed as important for the group to enact in order to meet its goals.  Specifically, emotional culture is the set of emotions necessary for a group to enact to meet its goals.

The type of emotional culture an organization or a department has — for example, whether it’s based on caring, optimism, or anxiety — predicts many important work outcomes, including employee absenteeism, teamwork, burnout, satisfaction, psychological safety, and objective performance outcomes like operating costs.

For a long time, emotions were viewed as noise, a nuisance, something to be ignored. But one thing researchers now know after more than a quarter-century of research is that emotions are not noise — rather, they are data.  They reveal not just how people feel, but also what they think and how they will behave.  Emotions are sometimes perceived as illegitimate in the context of work.  This is not only unrealistic, but it’s also a loss for both managers and employees in that they are missing an...

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