Workplace Culture

What is workplace emotional culture?

What is emotional culture? How does it affect your workplace and how do you improve it?

Emotional culture refers to how values, norms and assumptions are processed by your staff, the emotional culture within your workplace governs which emotions are expressed or suppressed within the workplace and tends to be conveyed through nonverbal cues such as facial expression and body language.

Facial expressions and body language are very powerful actions that can greatly affect the mood and mindset of your team. For example, if a manager consistently shows up to work looking angry, whether they intend to or not, it creates an emotional response for those around them. A study by Don Gibson, the dean and professor of management at Fairfield University, found that working professionals felt more comfortable expressing anger than joy whilst at work, and reported expressing anger three times as often (Gibson and Callister, 2010).

Every workplace has an emotional culture, but what impact does it really have on your workplace?

Managing your emotional culture doesn’t mean that you need to avoid negative emotions all together; after all, these are often signposts to action that needs to be taken. Instead, management needs to understand the emotions seen across the business and why they’re happening.

To improve the emotional culture of your workplace we recommend you consider the following:

Measuring your emotional culture:

There’s a wide range of ways to do this, it is also best to offer a variety of measures over time for the best results. You can survey your staff or, if possible, try to catch people’s emotions when they happen, rather than reporting on them afterwards.

There are several technology-based approaches that are available, which can help you tap into the underlying, taken-for-granted assumptions of your culture.

Fostering connections:

In the greatest of cultures, the metaphor of “family” is often used, it describes the belief of belonging and knowing your team well. What’s happening in the lives of those in your team? What do they bring to the organisation outside of the workplace?

Too often than not we feel that we lack the time needed to get to know each other well, employee rapport is the vehicle for creating and sustaining a strong emotional culture. Foster your connections with your team by getting together to catch up and talk about something not work-related. Make a habit of checking in with each other. Even the most difficult of co-workers has a story—something about their life, history, and experience—that can explain a lot about their attitude or perspective seen at work every day.

Creating micro-cultures:

If your leaders are highly stressed or too distracted to concentrate on your emotional culture, you can create micro-cultures or subcultures of positive emotions within your workplace.

Emotions are contagious, so encourage those who bring joy, gratitude, and emotional intelligence to be more involved around the office, chances are that these employees will spread the good vibes to others.

Bring back the fun:

Understanding the importance of fun within the workplace is essential to improving your emotional culture. Promoting ‘mircomoments’ of fun and rapport building to your team members. Encourage small act of kindness, each little act adds up to the caring and compassionate nature of your organisation.



Gibson. D and Callister. R, 2010, ‘Anger in Organisations: Review and Integration’, Journal of Management, vol. 36(1), available from: