When a person is angry, anxious or generally negative, the energy of these negative feelings easily spills over into that person’s interactions with others. Families, workplaces—all systems—are vulnerable to this, leading to the creation of emotional norms. Note also, that both verbal and non-verbal behaviors will reinforce these norms, be they negative or positive.
You could say that based on shared emotions, a system develops its own “organizational culture of emotions.” This culture, as mentioned, can be negative and toxic or positive and growth oriented. Sad to say, most of the time, people are not even aware of the emotional culture they are creating.
Leadership is critical in this process. When leadership is negative, a negative tone can permeate the whole system. Positive leadership and positive emotions, in contrast, tend to create and maintain the positive tone of a group and its members.
One study looks at a hospital experiencing subpar performance and low morale. The implementation of a 5-star hotel concept at this hospital demonstrated how a change in emotional culture can change the entire system and environment for the better.
Management instructed all hospital employees to follow the “10-5 rule.” This simple rule directed them to make eye contact and smile if they walked within 10 feet of someone. If they were within 5 feet, they were told to say hello. The result was abundant smiling and positivity in the waiting room and the hallways.
The effect on the hospital was positive and amazing. Employee performance showed noticeable improvement. Patients began to refer new patients to the hospital. Many employees, who had opportunities to go to jobs that paid better, chose to remain at this hospital.
So, what’s the takeaway? Research shows that the expression of positive energy can bring positive results to both individuals and the environment. Employees became more engaged, motivated and positive and the whole hospital environment shifted.