Can retailers benefit from tapping employee emotions?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” shouts a red-faced Tom Hanks at a tearful outfielder in one of the most memorable scenes from the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own. It’s a moment that often plays out in the office, where employees are expected to button up their emotions and tamp down feelings to maintain professional poise.
But new research co-authored by Wharton management professor Michael Parke finds major benefits to expressing emotions in the workplace.
“We found that teams that have this environment where they feel comfortable sharing their genuine emotions with their team members, and they don’t just ignore [emotions] but they work through them, not only come up with better ideas and insights, they get to the richer discussions as well,” said Prof. Parke in an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM. “They’re more creative. They produce more creative outcomes.”
Taking a cue from traditional management beliefs out of the 1950s, managers have long eschewed emotions because they are thought to be irrational, the harbingers of conflict and poor decision-making.
The research encourages modern managers to embrace emotions because they signal something important, especially in today’s team-driven workplace. Excitement, for example, could indicate an idea that needs more exploration. Frustration or anger could indicate foundational problems in a project that can’t be articulated.
“It’s not that emotions fundamentally drive irrationality, it’s how emotions are used,” said Prof. Parke. “For example, your gut and intuition can be telling you something important if you analyze and systemically look into that. If you just use your gut without that analysis, then you’re more likely to have bias.”
Positive emotions can also yield bad outcomes, he warned. If everyone on a team is hyped about an idea, rash decisions may move forward.
The most important takeaway for managers is to stop dismissing employees’ emotions.
“I think most significantly and probably urgently for leaders is having the courage to deal with emotions, and not just the positive ones, but being curious, validating people’s experiences, not trying to shove them away, not trying to ignore them,” he said.
- All the Feels: How Companies Can Benefit from Employees’ Emotions – Knowledge@Wharton
- The Creative and Cross-Functional Benefits of Wearing Hearts on Sleeves: Authentic Affect Climate, Information Elaboration, and Team Creativity – Organizational Science
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is encouraging the sharing of emotions net beneficial on selling floors, corporate retail offices, both or neither? Is the traditional managerial mantra that emotions often drive irrational decision-making and conflict antiquated or does it hold some truth?