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All the Feels: How Companies Can Benefit from Employees’ Emotions

Companies can benefit from employees’ emotions in the workplace, according to new research

Written by: Knowledge at Wharton (Are you the author?)
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“There’s no crying in baseball!” shouts a red-faced Tom Hanks at a tearful outfielder in one of the most memorable scenes from the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. It’s a moment that often plays out in the office, where employees are expected to button up their emotions and tamp down their feelings to maintain professional poise.

But new research from Wharton management professor Michael Parke shows there is a great benefit in expressing emotions in the workplace. When teams have supportive environments where members share their feelings and empathetically respond to each other, they can increase their ability to solve problems, elaborate information, and generate ideas.

That’s the main finding in the paper titled, “The Creative and Cross-Functional Benefits of Wearing Hearts on Sleeves: Authentic Affect Climate, Information Elaboration, and Team Creativity,” which appears in the journal Organization Science. The co-authors are Myeong-Gu Seo, management professor at the University of Maryland, College Park; Xiaoran Hu, management professor at The London School of Economics and Political Science; and Sirkwoo Jin, management professor at Merrimack College.

Parke, who spoke about the research during an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM, said the study offers a sharp departure from old-school beliefs that professional detachment is best. The scholars tested their hypothesis using a multisource field study of management teams and two experiments, and results were a resounding yes for the positive effects of having healthy emotional exchanges at work.

“We found that teams that have this environment where they feel comfortable sharing their genuine emotions with their team members, and they don’t just ignore [emotions] but they work through them, not only come up with better ideas and insights, they get to the richer discussions as well,” Parke said. “They’re more creative. They produce more creative outcomes.”

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