Use your feelings at work

If a leader fails to regulate emotions in demanding situations, this can contribute to efficiency loss because the behavior is not considered to be appropriate, says researcher Berit Sund. Illustration photo: Pexels.
By Sigrid Grøm Bakken

26 November 2018 10:33

Use your feelings at work

Understanding and controlling your own and your employees’ feelings is the key to efficient management, new research shows.

‘The ability to influence your employees’ feelings, to ascertain when they are feeling something and how they are experiencing and expressing these feelings, is the key to good and efficient management,’ says Berit Sund, associate professor at NHH and senior consultant at IMG NORD.

Alongside her research colleague Synnøve Nesse from the Centre for Applied Research (SNF), she has studied the effect of managers that demonstrate an understanding of their own and other employees’ feelings at work. The results were recently published in the journal Magma.

‘The research shows that managers who understand, adapt and control their own and others’ feelings in different job situations, achieve better results,’ says Sund.

Greatest effect in difficult situations

Sund and Nesse both hold PhD degrees from the Department of Strategy and Management at NHH. The research they have conducted shows that regulating people's emotions is particularly useful in work situations that can be the source of negative reactions.

‘Managers often find themselves in difficult situations and handling them is part of their role as managers. If a manager is unable to show his or her feelings in a good way in demanding situations, it leads to less efficiency because their behaviour will be seen as inappropriate,’ says Sund.

The solution is therefore to work towards controlling your emotions and adapting them to different work situations.

‘Managers who are able to adjust their emotions are more capable of reaching the company’s goal,’ says the NHH researcher.

More at NHH:

Among the 100 best in the world

NHH’s executive education programme is the only Norwegian programme on the Financial Times’ list of the world’s best Executive MBAs.

‘A challenging task’

The degree of emotional regulation varies from organisation to organisation and is dependent of the company’s culture and complexity,’ says Sund.

‘We find that managers have the least need for controlling their emotions if they are in charge of one organisational culture and one national culture. Managers of big, international organisations often have to make great adjustments,’ she says.

Which feelings are acceptable to display depends on the national and organisational culture.

‘This influences the amount of leeway the leader has to handle feelings. Emotional regulation is therefore an important, but challenging task for managers working across all sorts of boundaries,’ says Sund.

five advice for effective leadership

The two researchers have the following five pieces of advice for efficient management:

  1. Map the contextual boundaries you cross in your work and identify possible challenges.
  2. Explore these management contexts and how emotions are expressed, for instance whether it is acceptable to openly express negative emotions.
  3. Regularly ask for feedback from managers and employees about the way you behave.
  4. Ask for management development/coaching in emotional regulation across boundaries if you believe it can make you a more efficient manager.
  5. Share experiences with other managers working across boundaries, also across sectors.

Reference: Emosjonsregulering i ledelse på tvers av organisatoriske og nasjonale grenser. By Synnøve Nesse and Berit Sund, researchers at the Centre for Applied Research (SNF).