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Managing the Emotional Dynamic of Your Team

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As a leader, you must be able to understand your team's emotional state and identify the unique features of a situation in order to select the best strategy for influencing the group's collective emotions. The process model of emotion regulation developed by Stanford psychologist James Gross can assist leaders in understanding how these systems work. The idea behind this framework is that emotion and its regulation unfold over time and can be broken down into four steps: a specific situation (e.g., an aggressive manager), attention to the situation (an employee noticing the behavior), appraisal of the situation (the employee realizing that the behavior is offensive), and a response (the employee's actual expression of anger).

This model is an excellent framework for understanding how individuals regulate their emotions, and it has been used to investigate how emotion regulation in employees and managers can improve performance and job satisfaction. The process model is used here to examine how a leader can execute emotion regulation when attempting to manage a group, including situation modification, shifting attention or creating a distraction, reappraisal, and response modulation.

1. Situation modification

The first set of emotion-regulation strategies available to a leader involves dealing with the emotion-eliciting situation itself. The most obvious solution is, of course, to try to avoid the situation in the first place. Rituals are a well-documented situation-modification strategy that can influence collective emotion. So, if leaders can anticipate an emotional challenge, they can consider developing rituals with their team to modify the situation and change the collective emotions that may arise.

2. Shifting attention or creating a distraction

The second family of emotion-regulation strategies involves altering emotions by directing people's emotional attention in different directions. Leaders frequently employ distraction to alter collective emotion. In a classic strategy, leaders direct their group's attention to a specific adversary in order to heighten a sense of threat, urgency, and, in some cases, outrage. However, distraction can be used to alleviate certain emotions.

3. Reappraisal

Reappraisal is the third family of emotion-regulation strategies, and it involves rethinking or reinterpreting a situation in such a way that it affects the subsequent emotional response. A good example of group reappraisal can be found in stock discussion forums on the internet. Frequently, after a company's disappointing earnings report, its stock crashes, causing a strong sense of anxiety in the investor community on the forum. However, the stockholders are typically motivated to calm the community by offering various interpretations of the situation in an attempt to control collective emotions.

4. Response modulation

Response modulation is the final type of emotion-regulation strategy. This entails controlling one's own outward expression of emotional experience in order to influence the emotions of others. Consider the visual cliff, one of the most well-known experiments in developmental psychology. In this experiment, a child is asked to crawl across what appears to be a cliff on a perfectly safe but terrifying glass floor. On the other side is the child's caregiver. According to research, the caretaker's facial expression is extremely important in assisting the child in navigating this task and overcoming their fear and uncertainty.


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