How Does Work Make your People Feel? (And Why this Matters)

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" - Maya Angelou

When people talk about company culture, they typically refer to cognitive culture, AKA how people think and behave at work.

The problem is, this is only part of the puzzle. An area often overlooked by leaders is emotional culture, AKA how people feel - and don't feel - at work.

Despite decades of research on how emotional culture influences employee satisfaction, burnout and teamwork*, it’s rarely managed as deliberately as cognitive culture.

That means we’re only having half the conversation we need to have, in order to do right by our people.

Company Culture: The Breakdown

Cognitive Culture

Cognitive Culture is what people usually mean when they talk about company culture. It refers to values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the behaviour of all team members.

Emotional Culture 

Emotional Culture is centred around feelings, moods, and attitudes. It relates to how employees feel at work, and what companies do to inspire these emotions.

Most organisations don't pay enough attention to how people are or should be feeling. They underestimate how central emotions are to building the right culture and employee experience.

With a lack of focus on emotional culture, you’re more likely to see;

  • Low satisfaction levels
  • A lack of commitment from your people
  • Poor-performing teams
  • High turnover of people

When we recognise emotions in the workplace, we can better connect with, and motivate our people. 

It's time we started talking about how we want our people to feel. So I’ve come up with five questions to get you started. 

5 Questions you Need to Ask to Define your Company’s Emotional Culture:

1. How do you want your people to feel at work?

If you asked your people to describe their feelings during a working day, what would the ideal response be? Delighted? Joyful? Excited? Safe? Supported?

If your company had feedback stations with smiley face buttons, like the ones you often see at airport security, which ones would you like them to press?

2. How do you not want your people to feel at work?

What are the feelings you never want work to instill in your people? Fear? Anxiety? Dread? Upset?

It’s important to define these too, as they’ll help you build a clear picture of your desired outcomes.

3. What will you do to support your people?

This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer, as it requires quite a bit of research, some planning, and lots of careful consideration.

Surveying your people is a great way to generate ideas on this, and find out how they feel about your proposed plans before you roll them out.

You can do this through Frankli with just a couple of clicks. The Wellbeing Survey template provides a handy starting point, but, of course, you can customise it, or create your own from scratch.

4. What signals will you look out for?

For various reasons, people are not always forthcoming about their feelings at work. So it may be up to leadership or management teams to spot red flags such as reduced productivity, irritability or out-of-character behaviour.

The best way to support your people to share how they’re feeling is to give them a channel through which to do it.

The Survey and Feedback features in Frankli are perfect for this. Through Frankli, your people can submit unprompted feedback, anonymously if they wish, starting with a quick description of how they’re feeling - happy, anxious, empowered or other.

5. What habits do you want to change?

To answer this question, you need to identify any work habits that may be negatively affecting your people, and spot opportunities for new ones. Try not to get disheartened at this stage - no organisation is perfect, after all!

Instead, focus on the changes you need to make in order to arouse the feelings we discussed in question #1.

Remember that defining emotional culture is not a one-time gig. You’ll need to ask yourself these questions again in 3 or 6 months to make sure you’re on the right path. 

My final tip? Emotional culture is shaped by how all employees show up each day and contribute, so it’s only fair that they be included in your discussions around it.

At a time of significant change in how we work, and with people changing roles like never before, it's time to have a conversation on company culture, the full conversation.

Assessing and building on your company’s emotional culture Is easy with Frankli’s Survey and Feedback features. Find out more here.

60-Second Version: How Does Work Make your People Feel? (And Why this Matters)

Introduction: When people talk about company culture, they typically refer to cognitive culture, AKA how people think and behave at work. But we also need to look at emotional culture, AKA how people feel - and don't feel - at work.

5 Questions you Need to Ask to Define your Company’s Emotional Culture:

1. How do you want your people to feel at work if the business is to be successful?

2. How do you not want your people to feel at work?

3. What will you do to support your people to feel a particular way?

4. What signals will you look out for among your people?

5. What habits do you want to change or introduce?

Remember that defining emotional culture is not a one-time gig. You’ll need to ask yourself these questions again in 3 or 6 months to make sure you’re on the right path. 

Assessing and building on your company’s emotional culture Is easy with Frankli’s Survey and Feedback features. Find out more here.

* Linjuan Rita Men and Cen April Yue, Creating a positive emotional culture: Effect of internal communication and impact on employee supportive behaviors

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