Most of the management literature says good managers are authentic, open and honest. But according to one study, the best managers fake their emotions when dealing with their underlings.
A doctoral study conducted by British psychologist Chiara Amata, and presented last Thursday to a British Psychological Society conference, found that to get the best performance, managers need to project encouragement and positive emotions, overriding any private misgivings.
"'Faking it' seems... to be part of good people management," Amata wrote.
Amata interviewed 12 managers and surveyed 30 in her exploratory study.
"Managers who spoke to me reported feeling obliged to monitor their public displays of emotions in order to manage staff performance and maintain good working relationships with their team."
The study also found good female managers faked emotions more often than their male counterparts.
"Female managers need to deal with contrasting workplace stereotypes; on the one hand they are expected to be warm and nurturing, not angry or aggressive; on the other, displays of emotions, such as crying, are often seen as openly manipulative."
One female manager, Anne, recounted to Amata that when she became angry in a meeting, the men in the room wouldn't focus on what she was saying, instead asking her, "are you OK?"
Amata wrote: "We have known for some time that the emotional climate in the workplace is a key factor in employee wellbeing and performance. We have also known about the need for managers to be emotionally intelligent to be successful.
"What we have established here is just how important it is that managers 'perform' or put on a public emotional show, even if they don't feel like it."
Myriam Robin is a media reporter with Crikey, a sister publication of Women’s Agenda.
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