Emotional Contagion

Emotional Contagion – is it some disease?

Well – it can be bad, for you, but can also be very good!

Zig Ziglar greats people – morning, noon, and even at night – by saying ‘Good Morning!’ And he has found that 80% of people reply right back – ‘Good Morning’ – no matter what time of day it is.

Zig uses this to prove ‘you get what you put out.’  He then discusses that getting people to like you is only 10% up to the other people.  90% of it is what you do – how you act.  If you are nice to them – be their friend -then they will be nice to you.  Zig sums it all up with ‘You can have whatever you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.’

The ‘Law of Attraction’, a very popular phenomenon lately, is built on this same theory.  To be successful, to gain what you yearn for – be it wealth, health, or happiness – you must first start with yourself.  Put out what you want and it will be attracted to what you are sending.

Emotional contagion is the transfer of emotions from one person to another.  These can be good or bad emotions.  Either way, your emotions can be transferred to other people.  Sigal Barsade (Yale School of Management) did a study examining how emotional contagion can affect corporate culture – how it can effect the end results of people in the workplace working in groups.

Barsade found that emotional contagion did exist in the workplace and had a direct effect on the group dynamics.

“Positive emotional contagion led to improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and increased perception of task performance – all as rated by self, other group members, and outside video-coders.  The opposite was the case when experiencing negative emotional contagion.”

Well for anyone who has ever experienced a ‘negative’ work environment – this is all pretty self evident.  But in many corporate cultures it may not manifest itself visibly.  On the surface all may be well and good, but below there is a level of negativism that is spreading through emotional contagion.

So how do managers deal with this information now that they know it has a definite effect on employee moral, productivity, and corporate profits.

First and foremost they must recognize that it is there.  They cannot have their head stuck in the sand.  They must have open communication and see that there is a problem.

Secondly they must then take steps to deal with the underlying problems.  And then communicate the actions they are taking.  When deciding on actions, it is often advisable to get input from employees and various other stakeholders.

Finally they must work to bring about a friendly corporate culture, where communication is a priority, all employees are dealt with fairly and openly, and that working for the success of the team is more important than any one individual success.

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