Are Your Emotional Responses Demotivating Your Team Members?

BY Kathy Crosett
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When you walk into a room, do people tend to stop talking and start leaving? Some leaders might think nothing of this response and decide everyone else has a problem. Leaders who want to make a difference should dig deeper. They might ask why their team members exhibit this behavior. And they might be surprised to learn that they possess negative affective presence.

The affective presence term was first coined by Eisenkraft and Elfenbein in 2010. Since then, Hector Madrid and a team of researchers have continued to study the trait as it relates to leaders. All individuals, as a result of their affective behavior, have the ability to “elicit consistent pleasant or unpleasant feelings among interaction partners.” When organizational leaders demonstrate negative affective presence, they’ve got a problem.

Researchers focus on five personality traits when they study emotional stability. These traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. These traits also form the basis of affective presence. 

Negative Affective Presence

Leaders set the tone for interactions between themselves and each team member. Their affective presence also sets the tone for interaction between team members. If you regularly demonstrate negative affective personality traits, your team members will be less committed to you, each other and the goal of the team. If you routinely stay tight-​lipped about anything you enjoy, your team members perceive you as being less open. 

This tendency can also ripple through the organization. Instead of having happy employees who enjoy sharing personal experiences and bonding to develop a positive culture, you might end up with team members who are suspicious of each other. If you spend your days at the office scowling and talking trash, co-​workers and team members get the idea that they should behave similarly. 

Positive Affective Presence

No leader or manager is perfect. You, like everyone else, have to work on aspects of your personality to optimize your interactions with team members and to achieve the best outcome for your organization. 

This doesn’t mean that you have to share all the details of your personal life. But you can open up about a hobby or pastime you enjoy. And you can also make the first move to start a conversation. Show you’re interested in the other person by paying attention to the conversation and asking questions. When someone makes a suggestion that you don’t agree with, don’t react harshly and emotionally. Thank them for their suggestion and then explain your point of view and ask for their input. These strategies develop your positive affective presence.

Regardless of how complex researchers make their studies on personal interactions, the outcomes can be quite simple to understand. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. That advice goes double for leaders, as poor behavior on their part can sour the entire company culture.