HR Management & Compliance

What Is Emotional Culture in the Workplace?

There are many facets to workplace culture—for example, the level of competitiveness, the level of formality, the level of hierarchy and how closely it is followed (or not), the level of interaction with the community, and the amount of teamwork that is expected. But these are just a few examples.


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Another aspect of organizational culture is the emotional culture.

Emotional culture refers to the overall culture that the workplace fosters and encourages in terms of emotions, attitudes, and values. Workplace emotional culture can greatly influence what it’s like to work in a particular organization.

This is an important consideration for employers, as employee emotional management can be a big driver in productivity and engagement. It can even influence how likely an employee is to bring issues to management’s attention. Emotions influence actions, which is true regardless of gender. If employees are expected to minimize all emotions, it may hinder their ability to express themselves or be as open as they need to be to maximize their own productivity. Emotions are often expected to be stifled in the workplace, but that expectation can have negative consequences.

What Can Employers Do to Encourage a Healthy Emotional Culture?

Here are some tips to encourage a healthy emotional culture in the workplace:

  • Train managers and supervisors to manage emotional conversations with care and compassion. Emotional conversations may mean angry or upset employees, which is difficult but shouldn’t be banned.
  • Think about what the organization values and what emotions and attitudes the organization wants to encourage to coincide with those values.
  • Watch for signs of negative emotions at the workplace—things like envy, boredom, fear, and anger. The presence of these types of emotions indicate an opportunity to change something about the workplace.
  • Regularly conduct employee engagement surveys that include questions about how comfortable employees feel with expressing their frustrations or being able to communicate openly about their feelings or needs. Ask if they enjoy their workplace, and ask if they feel the workplace is a welcoming environment.
  • Encourage managers not to label employees based on how they express their emotions. For example, don’t condone labels such as “pessimistic,” “negative,” or “emotional”; rather, encourage managers to look at which behaviors they want to foster and determine how that can be accomplished.
  • Take employee conversations seriously, even when emotional components make them uncomfortable. Act on problems to address employee concerns and frustrations, and ensure employees feel they’re able to come to someone—their manager, HR, someone else, etc.—with any concerns or frustrations.
  • Create an inviting atmosphere that reflects the company culture and values.
  • When there are barriers to creating and keeping the emotional culture as desired, address them. For example, if some employees or managers are making others feel uncomfortable or hindering their expression, this should be addressed.
  • Pay attention to whether employees seem stressed or burnt out, and take action to reduce these problems.
  • Assess whether the layout of the work space encourages the type of culture you’d like to foster. Do employees face one another? Are there spaces for collaboration? Is there an appropriate amount of privacy, too? Are managers interacting with employees? How is the hierarchy exemplified in the layout?
  • Consider offering training on emotional intelligence.
  • Pay attention to energy levels and emotional expression in the hiring process, as well.
  • Consider offering ways to keep emotions in healthy balance, like meditation spaces.
  • Pay attention to employee lives and how they intersect with work lives. Work does not exist in a vacuum.

Does your organization take steps to foster a healthy emotional culture?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.