Understanding your Employee Emotions can lead to better Wellbeing at Work

Do we really spend enough time asking our employees how they feel?


Looking beyond the job itself, their loyalty to the company and general satisfaction with work, what are they really feeling on a day-to-day basis.  Beyond the ‘I’m fine’ or the ‘I’m really busy’, how well do you really understand the true emotions your staff feel? How often do negative emotions creep in, or build up and would you recognise it?

Having conversations with employees about their emotions is invaluable in building better connections, engagement, and ultimately enhanced performance and productivity.

Opening truthful and safe conversations about how people feel at work and how they would LIKE to feel at work helps companies identify gaps in employee wellbeing and happiness.

Most of us will have at some point in our careers or lives experienced the Sunday night dread or the Sunday ‘Scaries’, where the thought of going to work the next day leaves you feeling anxious and concerned. 

According to a study by The Sleep Judge, whose aim is to improve people’s sleeping patterns, the research showed that 81% of workers experienced increased anxiety on Sunday night before work.

When we dig a little deeper into what might be causing the Sunday ‘Scaries’ here are some negative emotion examples that could bring on ‘the fear’:

Overwhelmed – we have all had that feeling of opening the laptop to what feels like a mountain of emails and requests– or a challenge that seems impossible to get a handle on.  We may feel that we can’t ask for help, or that admitting defeat is a sign of weakness, but feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis is not good for stress levels and ultimately will lead to burnout.

Disconnected – working in isolation or increased working from home can lead to a feeling of disconnection and loneliness. Whilst some relish working ‘in silos’, others crave team support and interactions and find it hard to motivate themselves when working alone.

Disheartened – not believing your work is of value or noticed, losing interest in the overall purpose of the role or business.  Many who are disheartened are perhaps going above and beyond their role or working additional hours without recognition or reward and starting to question why they bother.

For most of the above there are some simple fixes, such as group get togethers, simple thank-yous and rewards for going above and beyond or creating a safe space to ask for help without fear of judgement.  Simple time management tips can help some gain perspective on the urgent Vs less urgent requests, and not feeling they must eat the whole elephant at once!

On the other side of the coin is those bounding happily into work, experiencing the Positive Emotions and Wellbeing attached to a positive Workplace Culture

Included and Involved – Relishing in the team spirit and knowing that others have your back in busy times.  Feeling safe to speak out, contribute and even disagree with your colleagues or group leaders, without fear of judgement.  Knowing that different perspectives are welcomed, not shunned, and feeling a sense of achievement in your contribution being listened to and acted on.

Challenged – whilst some may think this is more of a negative, many people actively seek challenges in their work to stretch themselves, build on their knowledge and skills and ultimately feel a greater sense of satisfaction in achieving their goals.  It can feel exciting and exhilarating when you ‘face the fear and do it anyway’.

Confident – This can come from many aspects of the workplace, it could be having the right training and development support, feeling trusted to do the job without micromanagement, or even being acknowledged for your contribution and effort.

Different people and roles are likely to have different Emotional needs, for example someone working in a Creative Role may appreciate playfulness and light-heartedness to fuel their creativity, whilst those starting out in their career may appreciate patience and kindness as they learn and grow.

Undoubtedly creating the right Emotional Culture for your teams will mean better staff retention and loyalty, reducing staff churn – a financial and time drain on management.

This excerpt from Harvard Business Review outlines the downside of not keeping a check on your Emotional Culture:

“Despite a renaissance of scholarship (dubbed “the affective revolution”) on the ways that emotions shape people’s behavior at work, emotional culture is rarely managed as deliberately as cognitive culture—and often it’s not managed at all. Companies suffer as a result. Employees who should be showing compassion (in health care, for example) become callous and indifferent. Teams that would benefit from joy and pride instead tolerate a culture of anger. People who lack a healthy amount of fear (say, in security firms or investment banks) act recklessly. The effects can be especially damaging during times of upheaval, such as organizational restructurings and financial downturns.” 


All the above is clear evidence that we need to be having more deep meaningful conversations with employees and create a safe space for candour.  Only then will we be able to adjust and adapt to ensure a positive ‘emotional’ workplace culture.

We need to identify the negative emotions to tackle the underlying issues whilst learning from the initiatives and behaviour that generate and instil positive emotions.

If you don’t feel the love, how likely would you be to ‘give it your all’ at work? 

And if the above doesn’t motivate you to look deeper at your emotional workplace cuslture then I’ll leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou, the American Memoirist;

“We learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”