Could the solution to the growing level of fear and uncertainty felt by millions, be as simple as happier workplaces? Could the answer to the number of authoritarian and unaccountable political leaders taking control of governments all over the world be as simple as happier workplaces? Could the answer to the depression pandemic spreading over the developed world be as simple as happier workplaces?
Perhaps not the only solution; but happier workplaces will most certainly improve the mental health outcomes for many millions of people. Happier workplaces will create more content, kinder, healthier and more prosperous societies.
The phenomenon whereby people catch one another’s emotions is known as ’emotional contagion'(1). Emotional contagion happens with positive and negative emotions; however, strong emotions, because they are expressed more intensely, are more contagious. Emotional contagion is so pervasive that it happens in workplaces, schools, family units and across large social networks. One study conducted by Facebook and the University of California found massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks. This controversial (2) study manipulated information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages to study the effect of negative and positive messaging. The research found that the subject’s emotions were manipulatable as a consequence of emotional contagion (3).
Full-time staff spend approximately 40 hours of their 112-hour waking week at work (56 hours deducted for asleep). If those staff work for a toxic leader, that is more than a third of their waking lives spent working in an unhappy and unhealthy environment. Emotional contagion means that flow-on effects will be passed on to their communities. Family units risk ‘catching’ the negative emotions of one member who works in a toxic environment. Furthermore, anyone who comes in contact with a member of that family also risks being infected.
Emotional contagion means that, not only are tyrant leaders inadequate at their jobs; they are also afflictions upon society and the world.
People who work in unhappy work environments are walking the streets of our towns and cities. The spouses, children, extended family and friends of those unhappy workers are also walking the streets of our towns and cities. The contagion effect has the potential to ripple and multiply through the community. Unhappy workplace disease leads to dissatisfaction on a local, state and national scale. In a connected world, miserable workplace disease has become a pandemic. Through contagion, staff infected with unhappy workplace disease infect their friends and family. They and there, now infected, family and friends, infect the society in which they live.
It is, therefore, the moral obligation of every CEO, manager and leader to ensure that their workplace is happy. The simplest way to achieve this is to ensure that their leadership team is trained in, and practice, compassionate leadership and the needs of their staff are met.
- The controversy related to the lack of consent of participants not to the studies outcomes.
- Carlin Flora, Protect Yourself from Emotional Contagion, published 21 June 2019 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/ last reviewed on 14 January 2020
- Kramer, Adam D. I.; et al. (17 June 2014). “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111 (24): 8788–8790. Bibcode:2014 PNAS.111.8788K. doi:10.1073/pnas.1320040111. PMC 4066473. PMID 24889601.