In recent years, many companies have implemented programs designed to improve the physical and psychological well-being of employees. However, most consider these initiatives to be a critical element in improving organizational productivity. But do such projects achieve their goals? This question remains open.
Jochen Menges, Professor at the University of Zurich, has been studying the role of the emotional factor in organizational life for many years. By seeing how positive feelings can motivate and inspire employees, he also makes sure that contributing to these emotions is an extremely challenging task. In a conversation with journalists, Menges explained why it is very difficult for companies to ensure the well-being of employees and what needs to be changed to achieve the expected results.
How effective staff welfare programs are?
These programs are a good start. After all, if an organization understands that the emotional state directly affects employee’s productivity. However, Monny from MonitTask says to us in many cases the desired results are not achieved because the programs focus only on reducing stress (yoga, massage, etc.) and the root causes of mental tension are not eliminated. Therefore, if organizations are serious about the well-being of their staff, they need to change their approach to doing the work and work systematically to eliminate stress factors.
In addition, many initiatives do not achieve their objectives because they are universal in nature and therefore do not resonate with many employees. People feel happy in different ways. For some it is a state of peace; for others it is a feeling of joyful excitement. Some people need inspiration or understanding that you are valued to achieve happiness; and some will feel happy knowing that they have a reliable job. That is, we are different in how we want to experience happiness; and that is the basis of what we have defined as “emotional diversity”.
Happiness is achieved through personalization
Talking to HR managers about how they plan to use this intelligence, you see that it is mainly a question of individualization of working experience. This technology should be applied not only in the context of the employee’s competence set, but also to create a certain emotional environment in which an individual can feel what he or she wants to feel.
Ask the managers you work with, “What makes you happy at work?” and then, “What happens when you are feeling happiness?”. They usually answer that this is due to high productivity. Then ask, “Write down the names of the three most important subordinates, and what makes them happy. At the end of the day – what makes each of these individuals happy is different. Acknowledging these differences is the first step towards personalizing the emotional experience, which means: in your attitude towards the employees you consider what they would like to feel when they are in the work environment.
Although most managers focus on what makes them happy and then project it on others. If people do not fit in with their vision, they start complaining that their subordinates’ attitude to work is not what it should be.
Realizing that sources of satisfaction are different for different employees, managers will receive a very effective tool. After all, emotions largely determine behavior and if we can individualize the emotional experience of employees, then we will move forward significantly, creating favorable conditions for the generation of innovations and productivity, as well as help to form emotional ties between people and the organization.
What prevents companies from effectively implementing their programs to make staff happier?
The organizational structure of most companies is almost the same as we had in the industrial era. It’s a multi-layered bureaucracy. The purpose of such system is to eliminate the emotional factor because it has always been considered that human feelings have a negative impact on efficiency. But if the bureaucracy was created in order to neutralize emotions, now, a hundred years later, we see that it does not work. The suppression of emotions generates negative feelings – the team is dominated by disappointment, psychological exhaustion, and stress.
For 25 years now, it has been discussed how important emotional abilities are for leaders. But there is need for emotional intelligence at the system level – at the organizational structure level.
How can organizations develop their emotional intelligence?
Study that examined 161 organizations and interviewed over 24,000 people, indicated that there are more happy, energetic employees in decentralized structures. Decentralization offers a great opportunity to generate experience tailored to individual characteristics. In turn, it can inspire people because they can make the decisions, they consider most appropriate.
The same research showed that in companies where employees consider themselves happy and energetic, HR systems are built around an emotional component (at least partially). For example, this means that not only professional characteristics, but also emotional abilities are evaluated in the recruitment process. Candidates are asked appropriate questions in order to determine how they deal with their own emotions and how their emotional characteristics are considered in their interactions with different people. Moreover, in addition to the results of an individual’s previous activities, their ability to inspire others is assessed.
An organization in which management positions are held by people with developed emotional abilities can make much more progress in their development, because such managers create processes, procedures and approaches that are different from the usual.
So, two aspects of building an emotionally developed organization: structural (less centralization is needed) and functional (HR plays a pivotal role in bringing emotion to the work environment). But this is just the beginning: the idea of creating such a company needs a lot of work.
Role of leaders in creating an emotional environment of a certain type
There are many factors that form the emotional space of the organization, but the key is the figure of the leader. The structures where were observed the manifestations of positive emotions and the state of ascent were mainly led by charismatic leaders.
Such leaders can find out which emotion dominates the group; for example, they can see that the entire organization is exhausted because it has undergone many transformations; or they can see that it is angry because people are dissatisfied with how they have been governed in the past. Then these leaders also show a dominant emotion and by doing so they become members of the group.
That is, by feeling what others feel, leaders legitimize their leadership; but at the same time, they question the correctness of the emotion presiding over the group. They say, “We are all furious about this and can’t go on like this; but do we have the right to be so furious? Then people ask themselves if this emotion is really the right one. The leader offers an alternative: if we do this, we will be able to feel something else.
Listening to the charismatic leader, people forget what they care about and follow him. Call it the “grace effect.” On the one hand, it’s good when you want to implement a major change; on the other hand, it can be dangerous, because the followers reject the justified concerns and start implementing with an excessive enthusiasm the wrong plan of action.
However, the “pleasure effect” can be balanced with another leadership style, which is defined as “individualized care”. In a way, the best leaders are those who can be charismatic “on stage” and show attention to individuals “behind the scenes”. In other words, these individuals can create an emotional miracle in front of the crowd and people see them as guides and inspirers; but in a more chamber environment they can understand the individual workers and treat them as individuals.
In this way, these leaders can both unite the group and create an emotional experience for individual employees that helps the latter feel happier in the work environment. All this has to do with the main thesis that goes through all my research: the correct tuning of emotions through various means – both formal (structural) and informal (cultural) – and, most importantly, through effective leadership is the key to survival and success in the 21st century.