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employee who either grunted or gave no acknowledgement. The manager took control and simply started following a diff erent route through the offi ce. Barsade’s research has taken her into a variety of workplaces, most recently long-term care facilities. Her research found that in facilities where the employees report having a positive workplace culture — she calls it a “culture of love” — the residents end up faring better than residents in facilities with a less compassionate and caring work culture. The residents reported experiencing less pain, made fewer trips to the emergency room, and were more likely to report being satisfi ed and in a positive mood.


OVERCONFIDENCE ONLINE E-mail, instant messaging and video conferencing have introduced new challenges to the workplace, Barsade adds. E-mails and instant messages can be misunderstood because they are devoid of facial expressions, intonation and body language — cues that help convey emotions. Some people, she says, work hard at making their emails neutral, with the downside of sometimes sounding curt. On the other hand, while some writers may add a smattering of exclamation points, question marks and capital letters in an attempt to convey more emotion, this can also be a dangerous route, particularly when attempting humor or sarcasm to drive home a point. “How can emotions be best


conveyed via these media?” the paper asks. “What is the eff ect of conveying emotionally charged messages via text, when these messages are more likely to be misconstrued? How must we re-think emotional contagion and other social processes in an organizational world in which many meetings take place online?”


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The paper cites a study showing that people tend to be overconfi dent about their ability to convey the emotion they wish in an e-mail, particularly when they are trying to be funny or sarcastic. “Video conferencing, also increasing in its use, has more cues, but it is also not yet the same as interacting face to face, particularly in group situations. Given that these technologies continue to grow as a primary means of communication within the business world, it is crucial that we understand how the interpretation and communication of aff ect occurs in these contexts,” the paper says.


Workplaces need to get smart about the best use of e-mail, Barsade states. Her advice is that “if something is important, and you know that the emotional context is going to be an issue, then pick up the phone; don’t just rely on e-mails.” And even the phone may not be good enough. “Sometimes, if it is really important, you just have to fl y to where they are and meet them face-to-face to get the message across.”


Republished with permission from Knowledge@Wharton (http:// knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu), the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


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