negative collective emotionsBy Margot Cairnes. Most CEOs do not understand the collective emotional environment within their organisation. This failure can have a tremendous impact on their success and their ability to drive successful transformation for their organisations. Successful transformation needs the organisation’s leadership to understand the emotions being shared, particularly the negative emotions that may be hampering the organisation from moving forward.

For leaders to be able to respond successfully to the frustrations, hopes and fears of their organisation, they must first be able to read the patterns of emotions that signal the onset of different behaviours. Top managers who manage large groups of employees often don’t have the time to relate one-on-one with individuals and must therefore be able to decode and attend to the collective emotions.

What is a collective emotion?

A collective emotion is an emotion that affects an entire group of people. It determines how that group will respond to certain situations and how well it can adapt to change. In an environment where fear, envy and suspicion reign – middle level management will be greatly resistant to changes they perceive as threats to their positions and reputation.

Pride, hope and joy

Organisations that have environments based on positive collective emotions such as pride, hope and joy are more resilient and flexible. They demonstrate greater levels of collaboration and cooperation between different teams and management.

Positive collective emotions will hold a group together and influence its cohesiveness and commitment to a task. According to a number of studies, a team’s leader has a significant role in shaping the mood and emotions of the team’s members. Members of a team with a leader in a negative affective state tend to be more negative themselves than members of teams with a leader in a positive mood.[11]

Other factors affecting the group’s emotional state are its emotional history, its norms for expressing feelings and the broader organisational norms regarding emotions.

Emotional aperture

The term ‘emotional aperture’ refers to the ability to perceive group emotion. Improving this ability can help the leadership of an organisation improve the overall emotional environment of the organisation.
As humans we can experience a tremendous array of emotions that impact our working lives as well as our general wellbeing. Each organisation has its own emotional environment engendering certain collective emotions over others.

To learn more about current challenges in change management and how to overcome them please download the 12SFB whitepaper, Why most current change management practices will harm your business.

The 12SFB programme helps organisations overcome their negative collective emotions to build an environment based on pride, joy, collaboration and commitment. It will help you develop your emotional aperture so you can better perceive group emotions. To learn more about this programme please visit