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Emotion Contagion - have you caught it?

There is a lot written about emotion management, especially in individuals but do we stop to consider how our strategy(ies) for managing emotion affect others

?Under the heading of 'Emotion At Work' I am taking three perspectives;

1) in individuals

2) between people and

3) in organisations.  

By saying I am taking those three ways of looking at Emotion At Work it implies that they are three different things and in a way they are and in a way they aren't.If I am alone watching a TV debate or interview and what someone is saying offends me (which associates with the emotion family of disgust) then my way of working with that emotion is really about me as an individual.  I can turn off the TV, shake my head at it or maybe shout at or talk to the TV.  Either way, that I am alone there is little impact on others.  It may be the same when I am reflecting on experiences I have had at work or personally.  If I am working it through on my own then the way I work with the emotion is and the impact is on me.Contrastingly, in a setting where multiple people are together (a lot of time at work) then the way that I work with Emotion or others with their Emotions will affect both them and others.  

For example, I may be in a meeting and come up with a really good idea for a solution to a problem.  This gets supported by the boss and I get praised for the idea.  I feel really happy and proud of my contribution and work with that emotion by displaying it openly and thanking the boss for their kind words.  Now, depending on individuals and the team this may get mixed emotional reactions or responses from others.  It may trigger additional happiness that a solution has been found or that I suggested it.  Alternatively, others may feel angry that I cam up with the idea or the way I have shared my happiness. In a third option, it may be that my peers feel fear and threatened by me or my actions.  The point is, how I choose to work with my Emotion(s), whether I like it or not, affects others.  This can have impacts on me too.  Even though I may feel super happy and proud, I may choose to hide or minimise this so I don't risk causing reactions in others.  

Similarly, the line manager may be less generous in their praise to avoid the risk of singling me out or upsetting others.  This dynamic nature of the way Emotions flow, change and impact others is why and how the three perspectives I began with overlap and interact.In 2013 a number of researchers in the US came together to carry out a 4 year study on the social impacts of individuals using different ways of working with emotions.  The researchers focussed on 2 strategies; emotion suppression and emotion reappraisal.  Suppression was defined as inhibiting behaviour after it has been triggered and reappraisal meant modifying the meaning of an event to influence the emotion experience.  Using a questionnaires and a combination of self and peer report measures the researchers grouped participants into the two groups (suppression/reappraisal) as well as assessing social connection.  

Finally participants also completed a 'big 5' personality profiling questionnaire.   The results indicated that those classified in the 'reappraisal' group had stronger social connections as compared those in the suppression strategy.  While you may not find these results surprising, the findings also carried across irrespective of personality type.  This study was unique as it was carried out over (what for emotion research) is a long time (4 years).  Similarly, adding the variable of personality type also overcomes barriers to what may be suggested as something that may explain closeness of social connection (e.g. Introversion vs extroversion).How we as individuals and people that interact with others work with our emotions has a profound impact on both our social connection and relationships with others.  

Both of these things can also impact personal success and sense of meaning at work.  So, they also affect the way that Emotion is At Work in organisations too.If you want to know more about 'Emotion At Work' join us at the only event in 2016 that is purely focussing on that very thing.

If you missed our first post 'Do you consider Emotion At Work' you can find it here http://community.dpgplc.co.uk/blog/do-you-consider-emotion-at-work

If you're interesting in attending this unique event then take a closer look at the event https://emotionatwork.co.uk

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