Article: Building and sustaining the emotional culture of your organization


Building and sustaining the emotional culture of your organization

Organizations are increasingly investing more into building large scale mass awareness about self, the power of emotions and how to manage it on an everyday basis.
Building and sustaining the emotional culture of your organization

Culture and Leadership are the most discussed, debated and researched areas in management literature. They are invisible gems with profound impact in nurturing (or otherwise) of institutions. Both are priceless and hence attract a premium over other factors of success. Impact of culture has been acknowledged by various management thinkers since the beginning of management science. It's easier to experience and feel the culture rather than to articulate and describe it. While various models of creating, developing and sustaining workplace culture have been designed and deployed, it's that invisible and stable soul of the organization which takes shape and form due to the interaction of a multitude of variables - caused or otherwise. Practices to inculcate & enhance culture have evolved continuously and are contextual to the societal cultural elements.

Culture in close knit groups primarily manifests into two forms viz. Cognitive and Emotional. Cognitive Culture refers to visible and verbal behavior (and strive) of the group members w.r.t. adherence (or otherwise) to shared norms, underlying values, world view etc. Cognitive culture sets the tone for employees to think and behave at work. 

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. ~ Dale Carnegie

The emotional side of culture focuses on feelings, moods, assumptions, intrinsic drivers which are either invisible or can be observed through body language and non-verbal expressions. Numerous empirical studies have shown the significant impact of emotions on performance, engagement, and creativity of employees in various organizations. 

The emotional culture of the organization exists with or without a conscious effort of the leaders (managers) irrespective of whether these elements are taken into cognizance by the formal system. A human system generating numerous interactions and intersections invariably gives rise to the collective reservoir of emotions and feelings which will have all hues, colors, and flavors. It's naïve to ignore the existence of such energy within the organization and to assume that formal system will continue to operate irrespective of the collective nature of such underlying energy.

A simplistic model of the impact of emotional culture can be understood in a nuclear family as the smallest microcosm of an organization. The quality of interactions emanating from motive, feelings and emotions shape the relationships among the family members as it does in any organization. Beyond the logic and rationale, the feelings are expressed and understood in its true sense in a family which really cares for one another. Conversely, a family with mistrust among the members is more likely to ignore the feelings and sentiments and decide the matters merely on merit more often. 

Modern organizational life is increasingly brewing higher complexities and stress to its members. Simplistic models and views of understanding of basic emotions and their interplay appear to be inadequate to answer the complex questions of mixed emotions emanating from insecurities and uncertainties of future. These complexities also arise from the inability of the recipients to understand and cope with their own state. The sensitive organizations are focusing on these softer aspects of emotional culture and initiating the efforts to shape it proactively. Surrogate measures like mood, feelings etc. are being measured, analyzed and acted upon. The advent of digital applications and technology proliferation has made it easier to capture real-time credible data at source and model (test & re-test) it to hypotheses. It's common for humans to carry the feelings of joy, stress, anger, fear, (mis)trust, compassion, care etc. from home to office to home. Hence efforts to impact the comprehensive quality of life and wellness of employees within and beyond the workplace is a step towards it.

Culture is influenced by the organizational leaders the most. Their world view, mental models, and personal conduct determine and shape the culture of the organization. If a leader consistently comes to work looking cheerful & encouraging, he/she may cultivate a culture of happiness and positivity, whereas a leader who comes to work looking visibly upset and questioning, may cultivate a culture of apprehension and negativity. This phenomenon takes place because leaders are constantly observed by employees who take cues for their behavior looking at the behavior of the leaders. Leader's moods and emotions travel through an organization like electricity over telephone wires. Among the three factors that strengthen the culture - vintage of the organization, impact of shared assumptions on the earlier success of the organization and whether the leaders continue to hold to same assumptions - the last one has the highest influence. Economic systems worldwide have gone through massive changes regarding the view of human beings within 'for profit' enterprise. Today, it's not considered as a mere means of economic value addition. Employees are sensitive stakeholders with limitless possibilities and hence investments in understanding every employee at

Employees are sensitive stakeholders with limitless possibilities and hence investments in understanding every employee at n=1 level and unleashing the potential of each employee leads to organizational success. While every man is also an economic being at a primitive level but higher order needs continue to remain, i.e. the search for meaning, success, and joy in everything that (s)he does. The call for understanding and carefully sustaining a desirable and positive emotional culture where individual connects him/her self with the espoused values of the organization is an imperative - no more a distant 'nice to have' goal. 

Emotions - both positive and negative - are powerful. Positive emotions are associated with satisfaction and motivation leading to better performance. On the contrary, negative emotions are associated with more sadness, anger, and fear leading to poor performance. Research associates positive emotions with higher quality of physical health and longer life spans, more effective immune system functioning which can lead to reduced stress and burnout. Positive emotions undo the damage done by negative emotions and stress.

Organizations which understand, harness, influence and shape these emotions benefit through overall employee well-being as also long term stake holder value creation. Progressive Organizations are increasingly investing more into building large scale mass awareness about self, the power of emotions and how to manage it on an everyday basis. It makes the journey of Organization Development easier.



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Topics: Culture, Life @ Work

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