How Feelings Can Create Workplace Efficiency

There's a school of thought that says emotion has no place in professional settings. That's certainly the case for most of us when we find ourselves crying at work. But no one is a robot, and we bring all kinds of feelings to our jobs. Some of them are even useful.

A new study from New York University looks into how managers can use their understanding of dynamics and emotions to help them allocate attention. In short, supervisors who are more attuned to how others are feeling can accurately assess how well a small group is performing, even given only 10 to 30 seconds. "In the current working climate, time is often short and so are the interactions," said co-researcher Oliver Hauser in a press release. Your manager doesn't have to be a micromanager, though; a quick, accurate read on group work can help everyone reorient and move on.

This isn't the first study to affirm the importance of emotional intelligence. There's a strong push in management studies to take soft skills into account in hiring and promotions. Feelings as divergent as anxiety and nostalgia can nudge you toward better decisions and stronger performance in different scenarios. Furthermore, confronting the "bad" emotions that you'll inevitably encounter on the job — shame, fear, disappointment — have been shown to drive improvement at work.

As for the NYU research, it gives managers a new metric by which to measure a supervisor's potential. "Across sectors, teams are used and emphasized more than ever before," said lead author Patricia Satterstrom. "Our research suggests that as you decide whom to appoint to oversee these teams, you would be well-served taking people's social sensitivity into account."