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doesn’t mean their coworkers aren’t picking up on their moods. “You may not think you are showing emotion, but there’s a good chance you are in your facial expression or body language. Emotions we don’t even realize we are feeling can influence our thoughts and behaviors.” The researchers’ paper discusses a concept known as “emotional labor,” in which employees regulate their public displays of emotion to comply with certain expectations. Part of this is “surface acting,” in which, for instance, the tired and stressed airline customer service agent forces himself to smile and be friendly with angry customers who have lost their luggage. That compares to “deep acting,” in which employees exhibit emotions they have worked on feeling. In that scenario, the stressed- out airline worker sympathizes with the customer and shows emotions that suggest empathy. The second approach may be healthier, Barsade says, because it causes less stress and burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion from having to regulate one’s emotions and “play a role.” But is there a downside to being too authentic? If the company is losing money and experiencing the effects of downsizing, should the manager, feeling stressed and


overwhelmed, convey his despair to his workers? Or should the manager try to appear cheerful and act as if nothing is wrong? Barsade says it’s possible for the manager to convey emotions that are both authentic and positive, saying something like, “I know you’re worried. Things aren’t looking good, but you know, we have a way out of this and we can work [on it] together.” The employees will appreciate the honesty and take comfort in the optimism, she says.


EMOTIONS AS VALUABLE DATA Emotional intelligence — buzz words already familiar in psychology and education — is now talked about in business circles as well, Barsade says. Business schools are teaching executives how to be emotionally intelligent, and how to manage the emotions of their employees. “The idea behind emotional intelligence in the workplace is that it is a skill through which employees treat emotions as valuable data in navigating a situation,” according to the authors. “Let’s say a sales manager has come up with an amazing idea that will increase corporate revenues by up to 200%, but knows his boss tends to be irritable and short- tempered in the morning. Having emotional intelligence means that


the manager will first recognize and consider this emotional fact about his boss. Despite the stunning nature of his idea — and his own excitement — he will regulate his own emotions, curb his enthusiasm and wait until the afternoon to approach his boss.” Barsade says research suggests that


positive people tend to do better in the workplace, and it isn’t just because people like them more than naysayers. “Positive people cognitively process more efficiently and more appropriately. If you’re in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more open to taking in information and handling it effectively.” While you can’t necessarily change


your coworkers, people can take steps to avoid catching a negative mood, according to Barsade. They can tell themselves before attending a staff meeting that they are not going to be bothered by the person who shoots down everyone’s ideas, or that they are not going to let that person become the focus of their attention at the meeting (reducing the possibility for contagion). Or they can change their office routine. Barsade gave the example of a manager who was dragged down at the start of every day when passing by the desk of an


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