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  • Louise Southam

Is your culture spreading a ‘highly infectious” emotional cold?


It’s that time of year when the workplace is full of sneezing and coughing employees, the appearance of the common cold has returned for its winter visit. It will pass and the boxes of tissues will subside.

There is another highly infectious virus that is spreading in the workplace, which we know as ‘emotional contagion’. A little like the common cold, this virus spreads across the workforce and has significant consequences on engagement, if it’s negativity takes hold.

So what is emotional contagion? Science has shown that we are hardwired to mimic expressions and emotions and we do this from birth by mimicking our carers, this is innate within us all. We create beliefs that either empower or limit us and it’s those that create the behaviours we play out through life.

I recently spent the afternoon coaching a group of graduates and the conversation switched rapidly to the end of term and the stress and pressure they put themselves under. They went on to describe how they get irritated with each other, how they find themselves being drawn into negative conversations and the impact this had on them both physically and mentally. What was interesting was they were totally unaware that they infected each other with their own body language, words and facial expressions. Just like the common cold, the virus of negativity had spread amongst the entire group, they were contagious.

This highly infectious emotional state plays out in many of the corporate clients I work with, I have witnessed leaders faces where their expressions are dour or angry, the boss that shouts when frustrated, the sales manager who is demanding because sales numbers are down. All of this hugely impacts their people as they scurry away with the same expression and body language that they just experienced. The virus spreads, as does poor engagement, poor performance and low motivation.

There is a cure…..

According to Harvard Business Review and the University of Lausanne, studies show that a charismatic leader is happier and healthier and 68% more effective.

It may seem a tall order to imagine that an increase in charisma can have such a profound effect on leadership. It does. Whilst we know you can’t teach someone to be charismatic as it is innate, you can change the limiting beliefs that dim charisma and by doing so, increase their positive mood and their personal energy, which will radiate out to their people. The charismatic leader creates a culture of trust, positivity and acceptance. They lead with their hearts as well as their heads and the results will show in higher performing teams, with greater connection and guess what, it’s contagious!

Charisma, it’s the secret to engagement.

#leadership #charisma

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