“Viewing people as emotional beings neither denies nor underestimates the importance of reason and rationality in human affairs,” state the authors of an academic journal Managerial Psychology. As a conciliator with the Funeral Arbitration Scheme, run by the National Association of Funeral Directors as well as working with organisations to promote change projects, I strongly believe in the sentiments of the authors who wrote this powerful sentence. Although a debate has raged across the ages about the relationship between emotions and rationality, I feel sure that we can admit that emotions play an influential role in the decisions we make.
The workplace is awash with emotion. People’s concerns about an impending merger that may threaten one’s position or job security, an intimidating or incompetent manager who doesn’t seem to care about feelings, stresses made by clients or workplace politics, all cause emotional reactions. Not forgetting that employees do have personal lives and inevitably, however hard they may try, bring these feelings into the workplace: Which university is my son going to go to…I wonder whether my daughter will pass her GCSEs…how will my partner react to my latest assignment…in Australia?! It is natural that employees and colleagues bring their personal feelings with them into organisations. When this is accepted, the real question we should be asking is, ‘how do we manage our people and their emotions most effectively to ensure a healthy organisational culture?’ In the majority of instances poorly managed employee emotion results in workplace conflict which negatively affects employee morale and affecting productivity.
The acknowledgement that emotion plays a large role in decision-making is essential to approaching workplace conflict in a manner that is appropriate to encouraging a healthy organisational culture. Even so, the authors of the article attest, rational acts, such as the pursuit of profit or career are “underwritten by an emotional agenda.” Managers have to choose how to best respond but not recognising the pervasive effects of emotions is at best naïve or at the worst, complacent.
For those interested in the practical ways in which one can work with conflict CEDR offers conflict management programmes for organisations and individuals details can be found here.
 Y. Gabriel and A. Carr, “Organisations, Management and Psychoanalysis: An Overview,” Journal of Managerial Psychology, 17:5 (2002)