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Graham Keen

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Your mood: the great game changer?


How smart you are depends on your mood. Yes really. As a concept, this seems both absurd and common sense in equal measure.

Think of the things you regret doing or saying when you are angry, your inability to think straight during times of stress, or your pure optimism during moments of euphoria.

The negative states which affect how intelligently you perform include stress, anxiety, anger, feeling disempowered, undervalued, disrespected or lonely. All feelings associated with poor workplace cultures.

Additionally, each of these traits affects the following:

  • Creativity & solution finding
  • Resilience
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Analytical reasoning skills
  • Motivation

Continuous rational thought comes from a positive place, a feeling of contentment.

Positive emotional states improve productivity, sales, co-worker relationships; the list is endless. Negative emotions, in any of their forms, impair our thought processes and our ability to perform.

This is clearly visible in all areas of life. We can see how negative emotional states affect our performance if we consider the mental and physical immobility which accompanies abject fear, rendering us literally unable to think or move.

These symptoms vary depending on the level of fear experienced, but exist in some small measure, to coincide with any feeling of anxiety.

Or the manner in which a lack of motivation or purpose can actually stop some people from getting out of bed as they are unable to think of any reason why the action would be worthwhile.

Never mind performing well, having your motivation zapped can stop you from ever actually leaving your house.

The knock-on effect

Statistics show that a large percentage of marriages end because one or both members doesn't feel appreciated. This eats away at emotional performance and eventually separation occurs.

Well guess what? That's also how many client/customer relationships or employer/employee relationships start to go downhill.

These traits are all consuming. They halt our productivity, hinder our ability to read others' emotions (because we are so consumed with our own) and make creative thinking and problem solving almost impossible because our thoughts are elsewhere.

But interestingly, the process that actually closes those abilities down is not a conscious one, it’s not even unconscious. It is autonomic and hard wired into our nervous system.

The part of the brain (cortex) that performs creative acts and finds solutions is simply closed-down by negative emotion above a certain level.  It’s part of the very same process that we know as fight or flight.

These are the emotions which make employees misquote pipeline sales numbers or sweep business issues under the carpet to fester and grow and become huge problems which will have to be dealt with by successors in following years.

Beware the lazy leader

Lazy leaders allow these negative traits to fester and simply rule by fear. It can seem far easier to extract productivity through fear of job loss, or public humiliation or not getting that promotion, than it is to nurture support and motivate.

It’s true. The latter does involve more effort but reaps far more rewards. These rewards are sustainable and last the long term.

Fear is certainly an excellent way to grab the low hanging fruit and experience short term gains in sales and operations but it isn't sustainable.

The fearful worker, running solely on adrenaline and anxiety will eventually burn out. They will leave. They could have been nurtured and continued to develop within a positive culture, mentoring new team members, keeping their valuable knowledge in house and climbing the career ladder, but a negative culture made that an impossibility.

It can seem far easier to extract productivity through fear of job loss, or public humiliation or not getting that promotion, than it is to nurture support and motivate.

Research continually shows that companies who promote resonant cultures outperform negative workplace environments. The concept of ‘perform or you’re out’ ultimately makes employees perform less well because they are burdened by stress.

Resonant CEOs continually outperform dissonant CEOs and positive sales people regularly outperform their counterparts who are suffering from negative emotional states.

Most companies understand this and hold sales launches throughout the year which involve motivational speakers to fire the sales people up: a waste of funds and effort if the salesperson has to report daily to a demotivating manager.

The art of the positive mental state

So let's look at what a positive mental state can achieve. Replicated research shows that employees with a positive mindset make better decisions, have higher productivity levels, earn more, build better workplace friendships and have stronger immune systems, to list only a few.

We are now working in an ‘adapt or die’ economy.

We need employees who can think creatively and problem solve to remain competitive. This skill set sits within the cerebral cortex which operates better in a relaxed, no-pressure environment.

A great example of this is Yoshiro Nakamatsu, Japanese inventor with the most patents ever in existence. He is famed for his inventions and the fact that his office more closely resembles a spa than a high-pressure, negative environment.

Emotional intelligence is also scored better when we are in a good emotional place. This is beneficial to understand the needs of our co-workers, managers and customers.

In an environment in which employees are constantly fighting for their livelihood, it's impossible to collaborate and find the best business solution. Coworkers become competitors and this works well for no one.

A positive, resonant culture is built on good communication from the top down and back, but more so on valuing and respecting people. The starts with the senior leadership team but must be instilled in every manager in order to be effective.

Positive cultures are actually based on creating positive emotions in people every time leaders, managers and supervisors interact with them, and never creating negative emotions.

And studies show the cream of the crop in industry talent, who have their choice of roles and salaries, now specifically look at workplace culture and wellbeing rather than the small differences in remuneration packages. It is more than worthwhile to secure and retain the best people.

A positive, resonant culture is built on good communication from the top down and back, but more so on valuing and respecting people.

Optimism and positive emotional states are not something that many of us are born with.

We have to learn how to harness them to our advantage.

This can only, however,  be achieved from a place of courage. It's near impossible to cultivate positivity and optimism in a poor work environment and pretty darn difficult not to achieve in positive culture.

A bad workplace can turn even the brightest employee into a shell of their former selves, a great workplace can realise the potential of every last single employee. It's an easy choice to make.

4 Responses

  1. Love this article Graham.
    Love this article Graham.

    We are what we tell ourselves we are. During stressful moment the internal voice of self-doubt can often shout louder than the voice of reasonable thought.

    For L&D this is a constant challenge when faced with such overwhelming times of change. I’m always speaking to L&D managers about this and providing advice and reassurance to help them respect that overwhelm and stress prevents them showing their true expertise.

    So focus on doing less things well than lots of things poorly. This then improves your mental well being and ensures you can achieve more.

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for insightful article. My dilemma is that a Manager of mine, continuously accuses me of moodiness but he is the person coming to work in a mood [colleagues testified to this], then I am accused of moodiness. This even lead to corrective intervention.

      How can I protect myself and perhaps ‘help/handle’ him in his moodiness state? The situation in the office is sometimes very bad and no-one is prepared to talk to him.

      Looking forward for reply.

      1. Wilina
        I feel for your situation, which is a very common one indeed – people often unconsciously imbue others with their own helplessness/shortcomings.

        You have three options: 1 fix it (the one you seem to have chosen – good for you!), 2 leave it and watch the situation spiral downwards until someone else resolves it (often unjustly), 3 leave (a non-trivial suggestion).

        To fix it you need to escalate to HR – keep going up the ladder till you get action. This isn’t a safe option but it’s the right one for you and the company. Escalate objectively – for the next 2-4 weeks keep careful notes of every incident with times & dates & any witnesses. Make sure the notes are objective – if you get emotional your case is weakened and may be ignored or dismissed as not real.

        Make an appointment with someone in HR, don’t just rock up – the appointment makes it clear you are serious and professional. At the meeting calmly lay out your case using your notes – no emotion, no blame, be reasonable, balanced and strong. Bear in mind you are handing the HR person a tough issue to resolve, show empathy, but be firm that you feel your manager needs help (not punishment) and that inaction is not an option. Good luck!

  2. Totally agree with Graham’s
    Totally agree with Graham’s response.

    Hopefully things have improved Wilina. Just to add to the taking notes option: document all the positive interactions you have with other colleagues from around the business – e.g. when they thanked you, or when you had a positive conversation. This will show that you aren’t the moody so and so in all instances and to everyone else.

    The other thing is to be absolutely mindful of your own words and actions. I suggest making and practising habitual positive body and language responses, so that when you do interact with your boss, or others, you by default respond in a way that cannot (or would be hard to) deem as ‘moody’.

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