As human beings, we are emotional creatures. It is what helps us to survive, thrive, interact and consciously develop ourselves. When managed well, emotions can give us the ability to accomplish the most amazing things. When we box out our emotions, we devoid the value our humanity brings to us. The workplace is rife with emotion, and no amount of policies and mandates will change that. The existential nature of organizations is wholly dependent on the irrational and fluid functions of the human condition.


emotionsThe workplace is rife with emotions. As a matter of fact, emotions are a by-product of your company culture. In a previous post about culture and emotions, I talk about how culture and emotions are inextricably linked. On a fundamental level, there is no such thing as “negative” emotions. Emotions are neutral; it is our behavioral response to emotions that makes them good or bad. The health of your culture will dictate the organizational response to emotions.


Every organization has a “vibe”. It’s always different and consists of many moving parts. You know your organization better than anyone else and you understand this vibe better than anyone else. This is important because it helps you to focus on which emotions are most suitable for your organization to achieve its goals. It also helps you to know which emotions are the healthiest in order for the employees in your organization to truly flourish.


Here is a list of the 6 most common emotions – along with some related emotions – in the workplace and how they may affect the performance of your organization.


  1. Wonder – This is one of my favorites. It produces a sense of awe in an individual. When this emotion is present, there MUST be room to explore possibilities. Wonder, without an outlet breeds contempt and cynicism. If your culture is meant to create a sense of wonder for employees, there has to be a way for them to explore. (awe, curiosity, hope, anticipation)
  2. Love – In my experience, this is the emotion that makes most leaders feel the least comfortable. There is a squishy, gushy connotation to this word that seems to not fit in the workplace. True love is a commitment, even in the face of the most vicious adversity. It isn’t a sudden elevation in heartbeat…that’s infatuation. Who wouldn’t want committed employees who weather adversity simply because they love what they do? (determination, resolve, dedication, passion)
  3. Joy – I purposefully didn’t say happiness here. True joy seems to outlast happiness and is less prone to external events. The workplace can be challenging. A culture that facilitates joy is a productive one. Work done joyfully is work done with excellence and a sense of urgency. (happiness, elation, contentment, bliss, peacefulness, pride)
  4. Hatred – This is an emotion that is important to understand its neutrality. Hatred may be an emotion you actually want in your organization. I hate how people are treated when money is the only purpose organizations pursue, so I take my hatred for that and work very hard to help organizations create human-centric workplaces. The hatred of something vile can give purpose when positioned properly. (contempt, ire, frustration, anger, fear)
  5. Desire – This is another difficult emotion for leaders. Often times desire creates politics and unscrupulous actions as a means to attain something. That is the negative side of desire. It can also produce an amazing amount of focus and effort. Embracing a healthy sense of desire is great for an organization. Your company culture can, and should, set the boundaries on how that desire is expressed in your organization. (craving, captivation, excited, interested)
  6. Sadness – It is so common to associate sadness with depression, and no one wants a depressed workforce. People are sad when they experience a loss, or they are forced to deal with unmet expectation. Sadness will happen in your organization. It may or may not be directly caused by your company culture, but how people respond to sadness is. Life is imperfect and sad things happen. Individual response to sadness can – and most likely will – impact their performance. If you respond to a human being sad, you most likely will get it right. If you respond to a change in numbers only, you will most likely get it wrong. The former will push sadness towards joy and love, the latter will most likely push sadness towards the negative side of hatred. Both will affect future performance. (concern, rejected, confused, anxious, scared, guilty)


What emotions are important to the success of your organization? How can your company culture purposefully create the right emotions for what you want for your organization? The human condition is what makes success possible. Embracing it and approaching it correctly is an important step in that success.