The real price of peace at work

Neg­a­tive emo­tions in the work­place can have pos­i­tive ef­fects

Middle East Business (English) - - FRONT PAGE -

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Michael Parke, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Or­gan­i­sa­tional Be­hav­iour, Lon­don Busi­ness School, made the re­marks in a Lon­don Busi­ness School pod­cast. Parke ar­gues that firms are miss­ing out on some sur­pris­ing ben­e­fits by sup­press­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions at work. “The usual pref­er­ence is to dis­play the pos­i­tive side of our emo­tions,” says Parke. “But there are con­se­quences. When some­one can’t ex­press their true emo­tion, it pre­vents them from be­ing their au­then­tic self and can lead to frus­tra­tion which de­mo­ti­vates them. If po­lite­ness and a fake sense of hap­pi­ness pre­vail, it can ac­tu­ally create greater so­cial dis­tance be­tween col­leagues.” Neg­a­tive emo­tions have cer­tain ben­e­fits, says Parke. Anx­i­ety, stress, frus­tra­tion, anger can help sig­nal and pri­ori­tise prob­lems. “A healthy sense of dan­ger, worry or sus­pi­cion in small doses can keep peo­ple vig­i­lant, par­tic­u­larly use­ful for or­gan­i­sa­tions that reg­u­larly en­counter risk, such as the po­lice and se­cu­rity firms.” Frus­tra­tion can be help­ful in an or­gan­i­sa­tion that seeks to mo­ti­vate change, and can trans­late into more can­did feed­back be­tween col­leagues. “Hon­est ex­pres­sion of neg­a­tive emo­tion can en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion, im­prove work pro­duc­tiv­ity and even boost growth through con­flict,” says Parke. “Frus­tra­tion sig­nals to oth­ers that there is a prob­lem, which can at­tract more re­sources, for in­stance, which can spur on in­no­va­tion.” But it doesn’t come eas­ily. Parke says that the key is in man­ag­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions ef­fec­tively, at both the in­di­vid­ual level and or­gan­i­sa­tional level. In or­der to do this, how­ever, lead­ers need to work hard to fos­ter a cli­mate of open­ness and em­power teams to be more hon­est. “Lead­ers should try to create an au­then­tic, ex­pe­ri­en­tial cli­mate, whether it skews to the pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive side,” says Parke. “This re­quires a long-term com­mit­ment. They need to set the pa­ram­e­ters for how and when peo­ple open up at work. “Im­por­tantly, lead­ers should be ready to deal with these emo­tions when col­leagues start open­ing up. Can­did feed­back ses­sions are a great op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice shar­ing au­then­tic feel­ings,” ex­plains Parke. If lead­ers are will­ing to com­mit to the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing an ef­fec­tive and au­then­tic emo­tional en­vi­ron­ment, the pay-off can be con­sid­er­able. Har­ness­ing both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive emo­tions can sig­nif­i­cantly boost cre­ativ­ity and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

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