March 22, 2013
Numerous studies have shown that when leaders are in a happy mood, the individuals around them tend to view everything in a much more positive light. The resulting atmosphere provides for an optimistic workplace, which in turn facilitates higher overall productivity, more creative reasoning, and more efficient decision-making. The converse is often true when a leader’s negative moods prevail: they have detrimental effects for the leader, his or her employees, and the organization’s performance.
In 2000, Caroline Bartel of New York University and Richard Saavedra of the University of Michigan studied 70 work groups across diverse industries. Their research found that people who gather within normal meeting settings end up sharing their good or bad moods within two hours. Other research has corroborated the fact that people who work together share their moods.
It is significant for leaders to understand that within most organizations, moods that originate at the top have a tendency to spread quickly throughout the workplace. The reason for this diffusion is that nearly everyone in the company observes these moods and is thus directly influenced by them. Leaders who are not cognizant of this process fail to understand the personal impact they, and their moods, have on organizational performance.
A large body of research indicates that a majority of leaders are unaware that their emotional intelligence levels, their moods, and their behaviors have a definite impact on employees and the organization. Leaders can remain clueless as to how these factors have the power to resonate throughout an organization.
In many instances, the repercussions of unwatched and uncontrolled negative behaviors are immediate. Employees can be reluctant to communicate accurate and realistic data and information for fear of the leader’s emotional reaction and potential rage.
The consequences of negative emotional reactions are damaging to the point that the leader becomes emotionally disconnected from the organization; as a result, he or she will not have a realistic sense of what is occurring in the workplace. These circumstances are especially troubling when employees actively work to hide failures, mistakes, and potentially troubling trends.
While an emotionally disconnected leader can often sense something is amiss in the workplace, the exact cause remains elusive, and their personal effectiveness is thus undermined. The perceived uncertainty of the situation also forces leaders to second-guess their employees. Other serious organizational problems can be caused by the following reasons:
Lack of awareness
When leaders demonstrate a lack of personal awareness, they cannot objectively gauge their own personal moods, let alone the impact those moods have on the organization. In some instances, a lack of awareness is the result of the leader’s ignorance, but more often it is a reflection of older leadership styles being used.
Many leaders who fall victim to a lack of awareness feel their personal moods are nobody’s business. Because these leaders do not see the need to force themselves to accommodate their employees, it becomes their employees’ responsibility to deal with the moods. Whatever the cause and reason, a lack of personal awareness undermines not only the leader’s effectiveness, but also the bottom-line performance of their organization.
Lack of self-management
When leaders possess a lack of self-management skills, it can be toxic to an organization. Mood swings, highly emotional responses, rages and outbursts have a dramatic and negative impact on all employees. In all these instances, leaders allow their emotions to control them. These uncontrolled emotions serve to undermine employee motivation and morale, which produces immediate and negative consequences on organizational productivity.
When leaders allow themselves to be emotionally unstable, their organization will experience higher rates of absenteeism and employee turnover due to increased stress levels. This tangible impact on an organization can be directly analyzed, quantified and demonstrated.
Lack of social awareness
Leaders clearly lack social awareness when they fail to empathize with employees and other individuals. Those who lack social awareness are either unaware a problem in this area exists, or they don’t care about the impact their words and actions have on employees and the organization. Leaders who only focus on results, while neglecting personal contributions, actively demonstrate this social deficiency.
Such leaders are unconcerned about motivation, morale or personal issues. Consequently, they will often find themselves surrounded by incompetent or fearful employees. The competent individuals, or those with better employment options, will quickly leave. The subsequent impact on the company’s productivity and profitability will be serious and obvious.
Poor relationship management
Leaders who possess poor relationship management skills are unable to communicate effectively, which results in misunderstandings, confusion and conflict. Employees in this situation can feel leaderless and uncommitted, as their work is often criticized and second-guessed by the leader. The leader’s poor relationships with employees subsequently lower morale and motivation. Employees don’t know where they stand with these leaders, and this feeling often results in high employee turnover and lower productivity.
While possible, it is uncommon for leaders to exhibit symptoms in only one of the above areas: usually they are deficient in multiple emotional intelligence categories. When these factors are combined, their impacts are intensified; a toxic organizational atmosphere is thus created that is saturated with problems and conflicts.
Often, these leaders cause extreme chaos and havoc within the entire organization. Not only does this diminish their standing and effectiveness as a leader, but it also can completely undermine and destroy an organization’s effectiveness. Turmoil and damage will remain until a more hopeful and realistic leader replaces the dissonant one. This change generally becomes the only viable alternative to relieve chaos and repair the organization.
Timothy Bednarz, Ph.D., is an author and publisher. This blog post is based on an excerpt from his book, Leadership Styles: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.