The jerk in Felps’ research primarily teased those around him. Everyone laughed. No one wanted to repeat the experience. Many feel teasing is part of the bonding process. I’m guilty I admit. Turns out the ‘innocent’ teasing costs your company hard cold productivity cash. In his research negative emotions traveled perfectly well, not only ruining the team’s day, but by the end of the experience many in the meeting picking up on the behaviors of the ‘bad apple.’
Now the good news.
Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in December 2008 shows that happiness can also travel in an infections sort of way across several degrees of separation. (Bob’s Happy, He knows Sue, You know Sue’s friend, You’re Happy!) The good news is that Happy seems to travel better than Sad.
The ability for emotions to transfer infectiously without a conscious cause reinforces the need to carefully build your teams with ‘attitude’ in mind. As companies are downsizing and budgets are stressed there will be more tendency to interpret challenges negatively and allow an aura of defeat take over the process. Positive attitudes in management can filter into teams even when the challenges are extreme.
(This doesn’t mean you should follow a rah rah, stick your head in the sand, we’re all going to be all right, – See Ostrich Strategy – approach. Barriers, challenges, even defeats need to be handled honestly and openly so that your organization knows management sees and is dealing with the elephant in the room.)