by Jonathan Jones
Leadership involves managing the emotions of an organization. The concept of “emotional labor” helps us to understand that when we come to work, emotions can be one of the most difficult aspects of the workplace to recognize and accommodate. That’s why the motto, “We are all professionals”, so popular among leaders, is usually unrealistic, since as sentient beings we are all reacting emotionally to events around us, and not always well. Many employees, knowing their workplace is toxic, struggle emotionally against negativity that too often causes physical ailments. Resulting sick days and absenteeism ultimately rack up financial costs no business can sustain for long.
Research has shown that negative emotions among staff are more contagious than positive ones. If leadership does not address underlying causes of the malaise, it will spread throughout the entire company’s culture. If the attitude of any company culture starts at the top, leaders will do well to seek out examples of positive emotional labor in any kind of workplace, then begin modeling those attitudes and behaviors with each other and within their own ranks.
Every leader should take a lesson from the flight attendant, whose job it is to create a positive environment for every customer. For all its physical demands, the job’s primary focus consists of emotional labor: making passengers as emotionally and physically comfortable as possible. When turbulence, delays or mishaps occur, the attendant’s positive emotional attitude not only reduces passengers’ stress and ensures their safety, but keeps them loyal and coming back to the airline.
When leaders understand that leadership includes the hard and conscientious work of positive emotional labor in their management style, they will enhance their employees’ loyalty, and company’s chances for success.
Jonathan Jones (Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.