Emotions Play a Useful Role in Managing Organizations

By Bird, Anat | American Banker, June 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Emotions Play a Useful Role in Managing Organizations


Bird, Anat, American Banker


I hesitated before writing this article. It is prudent for a woman to avoid being associated with emotionalism in the business world. After all, the stereotype is that women are too emotional to be successful in business and that only tough, unemotional people survive in the business environment.

Recognizing the risk, I would like to offer the perspective that leadership capacity includes a wide spectrum of emotions. Emotional capacity can be equally as important as rational thinking, even in the "business case decision-making" environment so crucial to organizational success. Trust, a collaborative environment, and a spirit that is conducive to human innovation can mobilize a company to achieve its strategic goals.

Although excessive emotion can disrupt reasoning and displace analysis, some studies suggest that too little emotion can be even more devastating to an organization. Properly recognized emotions help management. They allow people to use both the right and left sides of their brains.

Let's consider the role of emotions in the workplace today. The conventional wisdom is that displaying emotion is a sign of weakness. In other words, the businessplace is no place to show feelings. Emotions are to be avoided because they send mixed signals and confuse the audience. Emotional people are not good managers and must be treated with caution. Only rational thinking is relevant to decision-making, and using emotional words may be detrimental to one's career.

Now let's take a different viewpoint. Consider emotions instead as a way to foster high performance by touching people's hearts in addition to their heads. In many high-performing organizations, emotions are a sign of strength. They are essential in business, since business is dependent on people, and people have feelings. Feelings trigger productivity, learning, and commitment.

Emotions can be used to clarify, not confuse, the issue. Though "gut feelings" alone are an insufficient and possibly dangerous base for decision-making, ignoring intuition is usually bad business. When supported with the right analysis, good intuition can develop into a sixth sense, as any effective bond trader or bank CEO will tell you. …

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