Managing Emotion in Your Team

Maintaining Harmony in a Group

Handle the emotions of people in your team effectively.

© iStockphoto/MichaelDeLeon

You've just gathered your team for a brainstorming session, and you're all excited to get started … well, everyone except Phil.

Phil is giving obvious signals of frustration. He's sighing loudly, complaining to colleagues about his enormous workload, and watching the clock to see when he can leave. As you watch, you can see Phil's negativity sapping the energy of the rest of your team.

You move forward anyway, hoping to ignore Phil's bad mood, but the damage has already been done. Every idea that people introduce gets a critical comment from Phil, and, after a few minutes, you know the meeting will be a waste of time. No one wants to be in the same room with Phil, and his criticisms are killing potentially good ideas before anyone can even consider them. You end the meeting having made very little progress.

Studies have shown that emotions, especially negative emotions, can spread from person to person. If one team member experiences a negative emotion, then chances are high that it will hurt the performance of the entire group. Much has been written about how to manage your own emotions at work  . But, as a manager, how can you handle the emotions of people within your team?

In this article, we'll explore how you can do this, so that you can all be more productive.

Recognizing Team Emotion

Ordinary, everyday hassles and irritations (like jamming the copying machine) can seriously affect the way that we experience our jobs, our colleagues, and our organizations. When these hassles occur one after another, with no relief in between, it may significantly influence the way we think, feel, and act – not just on that day, but for days to come.

When workers hold these negative emotions, they'll probably experience bad effects – such as anger management issues, burnout, poor productivity, or low morale. This is especially likely if part of their job is to give a positive impression to customers (see our article on emotional labor  ).

What's worse is that they're likely to express this mood to others: for instance, by yelling at people around them, upsetting these people, and affecting their productivity.

As a manager, you can help ensure that your team works productively and cohesively by recognizing individual team members' emotions and offering support and guidance to help them cope – before they spread negative moods to everyone else.

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