Tag Archives: threat

“Emotional Contagion” in the Workplace through Social Observation, Social Media

Emotions can be “contagious” between individuals, and can affect work group dynamics.

Douglas Pugh

Douglas Pugh

Emotional contagion is characterized by replicating emotions displayed by others, and differs from empathy, which enables understanding another’s emotional experience without actually experiencing it, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s S. Douglas Pugh.

Adam D I Kramer

Adam D I Kramer

In addition to direct interpersonal contact, “viral emotions” can be transmitted through social media platforms without observing nonverbal cues, according to Facebook’s Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory of University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University’s Jeffrey T. Hancock.
This finding suggests the significant impact of social media on workplace interpersonal relations and productivity.

Jeffrey Hancock

Jeffrey Hancock

Kramer’s team found that when positive emotional expressions in Facebook News Feeds were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts.
In contrast, when negative emotional expressions were reduced, the people reduced negative posts, indicating that people’s emotional expressions on a massive social media platform like Facebook influences others’ emotions and behaviors.

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

People in performance situations are influenced by observing others’ emotions.   
When participants observed positive emotions in a decision task, they were more likely to cooperate and perform better in groups, found Wharton’s  Sigal Barsade.

People who were more influenced by others’ emotions on R. William Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale also reported greater:

  • Reactivity,
  • Emotionality,
  • Sensitivity to others,
  • Social functioning,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Emotional empathy.

They also reported lower:

  • Alienation,
  • Self-assertiveness,
  • Emotional stability.
Stanley Schachter

Stanley Schachter

Individuals are more likely to be influenced by others emotions when they feel threated, which increases affiliation with others, according to Stanley Schachter‘s emotional similarity hypothesis.

Brooks B Gump

Brooks B Gump

Likewise, when people believe that others are threatened, they are more likely to mimic others’ emotions, found Syracuse University’s Brooks B. Gump and James A. Kulik of University of California, San Diego.

Elaine Hatfield

Elaine Hatfield

Women reported greater contagion of both positive and negative emotions on Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale.
Observers also rated these women as experiencing greater emotional contagion than men in research by Doherty with University of Hawaii colleagues Lisa Orimoto, Elaine Hatfield, Janine Hebb, and Theodore M. Singelis of California State University-Chico.

James Laird

James Laird

People who are more likely to “catch” emotions from other are also more likely to actually feel emotions associated with facial expressions they adopt, reported Clark University’s James D. Laird, Tammy Alibozak, Dava Davainis, Katherine Deignan, Katherine Fontanella, Jennifer Hong, Brett Levy, and Christine Pacheco.
This finding suggests that those with greater susceptibility to emotional contagion are convincing actors – to themselves and others.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Contrary to expectation, people with greater power notice and adopt emotions of people with less power, found University of Hawaii’s Christopher K. Hsee, Hatfield, and John G. Carlson with Claude Chemtob of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Participants assumed the role of “teacher” or “learner” to simulate role-based power differentials, then viewed a videotape of a fictitious participant discussing an emotional experience.
Volunteers then described their emotions as they watched the confederate describe a “happiest” and “saddest” life event.
People in higher power roles were more attuned to followers’ emotions than previously anticipated.

The service industry capitalizes on emotional contagion by training staff members to model positive emotions, intended to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

James Kulik

James Kulik

However, customer satisfaction measures were more influenced by service quality than employees’ positive emotion, according to Bowling Green State’s Patricia B. Barger and Alicia A. Grandey of Pennsylvania State University.

Emotions can positively or negatively resonate through work organizations with measurable impact on measures of employee attitude, morale, engagement, customer service, safety, and innovation.

-*How do you intentionally model and convey emotions to individuals and group members?
-*What strategies do you use to manage susceptibility to “emotional contagion”?

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Men Negotiate More Assertively with Women Managers

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Men volunteers negotiated more assertively with women in supervisory roles in laboratory tasks, compared with strategies they used with male supervisors, reported Bocconi University’s Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern University, and Washington State University’s Leah D. Sheppard.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki

This cross-gender negotiation trend was reduced when woman in supervisory roles demonstrated directness and proactivity (“administrative agency”) rather than self-promotion and power-seeking (“ambitious agency”).

The team told 52 male and 24 female volunteers that they would negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager.

Leah D. Sheppard

Leah D. Sheppard

After the negotiation, participants completed an implicit threat test by identifying words that appeared on a computer screen for a fraction of a second in a variation of the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald of University of Washington.
Participants who chose more threat-related words like “fear” or “risk,” were inferred to feel more threatened.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Male participants who negotiated with a female manager selected more threat-related words on implicit association test, and they negotiated for a higher salary ($49,400 average), compared to men negotiating with a male manager ($42,870 average).

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

The manager’s gender didn’t affect female participants, who negotiated a lower salary ($41,346 average), reflecting a common trend where women tend not to negotiate, or to negotiate less vigorously, as noted by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

In another experimental task, more than 65 male volunteers decided how to share a $10,000 bonus with a male or female team member or with supervisor.
Male participants tended to equally divided the money with male or female team members, but reacted significantly differently with a female supervisor.

Men who endorsed more threat-related words chose to keep more money for themselves when the supervisor was female, compared with when they were paired with a male supervisor.

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

A related online survey of 226 male and 144 female volunteers found that male participants decided to keep a larger share of the $10,000 bonus when the female manager was described as ambitious or power-seeking, but responded significantly more favorably when the female supervisor was described as proactive or ambitious.
In the latter case, male volunteers offered approximately the same bonus amount to female managers.

This suggests that women managers with male direct-reports enhance these relationships by adopting a consciously direct leadership style, characterized by consistent communication, and proactive problem-solving.

Netchaeva’s group posits that women who adopt a direct, active leadership style reduce threat in cross-gender reporting relationships, and enable greater cooperation in bargaining and negotiation situations.

-*To what extend have you observed evidence of implicit threat responses in cross-gender workplace reporting relationships?

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