As a leader your demeanour is often mirrored by your team. This is what we call emotional contagion. Whilst this is difficult to detect, the actual process is simple. Humans are social creatures, and mimicry is part of the social bond. When someone smiles at us, we typically smile back. The same is true of a frown – you may unconsciously return the look, which also will often lead to some sadness as your mind follows your body.
A constant exchange of moods takes place when people work together, and it’s possible to catch a negative attitude like a virus. Within a team, the effects of just one negative person can be very damaging to the project and the well-being of each individual member. It’s critical that leaders understand how to manage mood contagion.
As a leader, your team will be highly attuned to your emotions, which means your mood has the power to influence their attitudes, spirits, and behaviours. Here are some ways you can help manage emotional contagion.
Self – Awareness
Because you largely control the team’s climate, it’s crucial that you maintain awareness of your mood and change it if necessary. Especially if you’re feeling burned out or close to it, you may not realise the extent to which you’re transmitting your exhaustion and lack of positivity to your team.
If your current mood is not useful to your team, work to change it. One proven method for changing how you feel is reframing. Like adjusting your view through the lens of a camera, reframing helps you shift your mindset by looking at a situation, person, or relationship from a different and more positive angle.
Along with your state of mind, also pay attention to your body language. For example, when crossing arms it can communicate a defensiveness or anxiety (and be contagious). On the other hand, a relaxed upright posture, a smile, and eye contact can express warmth and confidence and engender the same feelings in others.
It’s essential to be aware and intentional about the climate you’re creating. It can be all too easy to focus on the negative at work, where anger is expressed more frequently than joy.
Encourage the sharing of wins, positive experiences, and positive emotions. And make it clear that you won’t tolerate negativity.
Don’t forget to safeguard yourself from negativity. Consider what’s going on around you. If you suspect that negative emotional contagion is getting to you, make time for self-care. This might include exercise, mindfulness practices, and having positive, high-quality connections with others, all of which are proven mood-boosters.