Thursday, December 11, 2014

How negative emotions like sadness could turn out to be a force for good

It is not always possible to suppress emotions like anger or sadness during a crisis. When corporate image is at stake, it is rather that conventional wisdom be rethought. For the sake of the public image, to motivate the workforce, and for so many other seemingly positive reasons, demonstrating negative emotions was perceived as against the corporate good. Does it mean that all negative emotions are bad? When angry employees voice their opinions are they rebels who should be shoved out the door? Positive management leads to positive leadership.

Sometimes, the prevailing attitudes do not reflect desired positive outcomes (pdf). Sometimes, the status quo could be wrong although there are exceptions to every rule.

Bereavement could build social connections. Source: Wikimedia Commons
When, could expressions of negative emotions at the corporate arena be a force for positive results or positive changes? Management should evaluate these facts when making a decision.

  • Every situation is unique:

  • Sometimes, workers should be encouraged to express negative emotions. Managers should ensure that such negative demonstrations are constructive and for the “common good. Even positive emotions like compassion, a positive emotion, when taken to extremes, can lead to what is termed “compassion fatigue,” which has been shown to induce stress in perfectionists and overly conscientious individuals. No two situations can be the same.
  • Political nature of the situation:

  • When workers perceive injustice or unfairness, they usually have channels for lodging complaints. When these channels become unfair or inefficient, employees organize themselves. The consequences for doing so could be grave or positive; the outcomes depend on the individuals involved, their corporate political ambitions, the genesis of the negative emotion as well as other factors.
  • Organizational leadership style:

  • When management is ineffective, would it be wrong for workers to voice their complaints with a view of eliciting change? A company whose personnel department is inefficient could be recruiting workers who are unfit for the roles employed. It has been found that when followers in the organization highly agree with the top management leadership style, staff response to negative emotions turn out most times to be more positive than negative.
  • How the emotion is directed:

  • Some emotions like sadness motivates the positive behavior of building social connections when motivated by social loss rather than status loss. Corporate workers want to appear in control of their emotions so they’d rather do away with negative emotions. Yet, when a loss is shared with others, whether positive or negative, it offers an opportunity for openness and intimacy, for expanding personal corporate social circles.
  • Status associated with the job function:

  • Some workers like teachers and helpline workers are looked down upon in the society. These are negative emotions directed maybe to them as individuals and/or to their job functions. People do not want to be associated with those “kinds of jobs”. Helpline workers who deal with isolated, upset, abusive or suicidal individuals are perceived as carrying social “dirt” and they’d rather not be tainted with it.
  • How the emotion is perceived:

  • Just as every situation is unique, the individuals to which the emotion is directed to are also unique. Everybody reacts differently to anger and happiness. Some show a strong sense of affection for emotions that are directed towards them while others tend to interpret extreme and moderate meanings to emotional situations, depending on their ilk.

Positive corporate leadership desires outcomes to positive and negative emotions that reflect the expected bottom line: motivated employees, agreeable follower-ship, emotionally healthy workforce and profits. It would be conventionally wise then for management to recognize the existence of negative emotions and their place in corporate life.

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