Emotions Fuel Cultural Fire

How are you feeling today? I know we are just celebrating (or commiserating) one year of pandemic, but otherwise what is your mood today? Happy? Sad? Confused? Engaged? Challenged? How present have you been today? How disconnected are you now? Any other words or phrases come to mind to explain your feelings in this moment?

Emotions are funny ole’ things. We have them, we can lean into them, we may use them to our advantage, we express them through our actions, occasionally we shout out that we now own them, but it seems more frequently we hide, cover, stop, or push them aside. Are they good things to have or bad baggage? It does not matter, because you have them irrespective of whether you want them. You can’t choose to not be emotional, at best you can choose to manage the level of visibility or response you generate from them. Some people may be skilled at hiding their emotions, but really, they are just hiding the way the express them to others – it doesn’t mean they don’t exist – psychological conditions excluded.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been playing with emotional responses to change and bringing my somewhat limited experience with the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) into play. I use it as reference in discovering or just identifying what that emotional response is for people going through a change or even just considering it. As I now embark on becoming a pro-facilitator for the ECD I am struck by my own preconceptions, those of others around me and some of the research that prompted the fantastic Jeremy Dean to develop this wonderous thought provoking little deck of cards.

I’m first reassured then intrigued to read in the Harvard Business Review article of January 2016 that, “Every organization has an emotional culture, even if it’s one of suppression.” It got me thinking – is emotion just and indicator of the culture or is it the driver that may inform the culture of an organization. Can we use it as an indicator of the organization’s maturity, progressiveness, or approach to employee engagement? If we challenge the referenced statement above to explore an organization of suppressing emotion, I am taken in two differing directions of thought. Is it describing a mindset that encourages emotions to be curtailed, avoided, and prevented or is it more about emotional expressions being held down and kept inside? I make the difference, not because I think either is better than the other, but to reflect upon the consequences of each within organizational culture.

Prevention tactics can cause individuals to associate emotions with wrongdoing, the removal of individuality, and the organization’s desire to have each employee be just a numbered robot in the big machine. It negates the person(ality) for who they are and does not recognize them for any individual strengths they may bring to their work. Effectively everyone becomes everyone else and in so doing nobody is really anybody – apologies for the mind pausing sentence!

Now if the alternate is to bottle up emotions and just not show them, this has a health impact on individuals. The challenge here is that emotional responses are contained, not the emotions themselves. The effects are then turned inward, and the folks can make themselves ill with internal wrestling what they cannot express.

Let us move away from health impacts and robots without emotions and bring a focus on to how these may represent the culture dynamic. Consider your perceptions or expectations of culture. What is a good culture? What is a bad culture? Do we say that a good culture is one that is driven by values and principles of equity and inclusion, of respect and appreciation, of opportunity and progress? I’m sure there are more words than that, but as with many people those words would align for me as a good culture. This leads our thought patterns to consider if “It is important for people to feel happy rather than miserable in their work” as per this June 2018 publication from Jochen Menges at the University of Cambridge who validates the comment with the empirical reference of “research shows that contented employees deliver better results”. I deduce from these statements that the good, positive, emotionally free culture is beneficial to organizational results because an embracement of emotions, demonstrates a focus on people and the culture needed to thrive.

I have worked with too many organizations that shout out about their culture, but it is just a conformist culture, devoid of emotional resonance and focused on task delivery with rewards given for compliant and monochrome response mechanisms. I am choosing to challenge the success of these organizations. The need to address the role of emotions within their entities and the potential evolution of their culture by working with the emotions they find.

I think organizations grow when they embrace the potential of their culture. I feel that cultural potential can only be discovered when emotions are made accessible, recognizable and the commitment is to work with them rather than against. Like all good change, success happens when you do change with people, similarly cultural transformation is successful when you work with emotions of all involved..

©2021 Rich Batchelor for Capillary Consulting Inc.

This is the first in a series of upcoming blogs as I progress through my Emotional Culture Deck pro certification.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

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