Managing Workplace Emotions During Organizational Transformation | Hacker Noon

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Halil Yildirim Hacker Noon profile picture

@hyildirimHalil Yildirim

Nothing really special.
MBA – Uni. of Amsterdam

Let’s begin with a description of the emotional process which starts with an eliciting stimulus where the exposed individual indexes the stimulus with meaning and experiences a feeling. This process results in changes in attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions. People experience emotions when they appraise events positively or negatively according to their essential goals. The way people appraise the impact of these events determines the type of emotions that also influence people’s thinking and action in return.

Negative Emotions and Organizational Transformation

For a long time, organizations have been analyzed as systems and remained mainly indifferent to how various organization members feel differently about the information. However, an organizational transformation is characterized by intense negative emotions, most frequently associated with anxiety, such as fear, panic, and desperation.

Negative felt emotions may damage the change processes and might result in an unsuccessful implementation of initiatives. Employees are affected by their felt emotions during the interpreting change programs and may consider negative feelings as a sign that an organizational change is a threat to their well-being.

In addition, organization members also experience strong emotions during the innovation process and how they often affect each other’s attitudes. Various groups in the same organization could also disagree on their opinions of whether a new technology constitutes a threat or an opportunity. Therefore, the change is perceived differently and is likely to elicit different emotions among organization members in the same company.

While the importance of group emotions is straightforward, managers can also utilize negative emotions among organizational members to create a sense that change is necessary and therefore promote the change process.

Negative emotions of organization members imply a threat to the process of change and may endanger the implementation process of the change initiatives. Conversely, a positive expressed emotion of organization members is expected to promote and ease the process of the implementation.

Positive Emotions in The Workplace

Positive emotions of organization members are found to be expanding understanding of the value of the change and trigger a diffusion of positive emotions through the workforce. Those experiences of positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serve to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources.

Therefore, it encourages creativity and search, facilitating approach rather than avoidant behavior. Taken together, felt emotions shape the perception of members on the change process and resulting in new interpretations of the environment.

So, what we can do with this knowledge?

We can see that the human factor is at the center of the successful digital transformation process. Therefore, it is vital to measure and monitor group-level interactions and consequent emotions to some extend. It’s also beneficial to categorize organization members depending on their stance against the digital transformation process.

While there would be a group highly engaged, let’s call them here “change evangelists”, there would be also the ones who are more “skeptical”.

After determining a few categories, a customized communication for each group can be utilized. In other words, once we start to understand the feelings of organization members and their appraisal process, we could manipulate the root causes by utilizing effective communication methods.

For example, If you can spread the word which can ease the pain of uncertainty for the future which is a dominant feeling among “skeptics”, that might result in their engagement into the transformation process.

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