Sigal Barsade, who showed that workers’ emotions and moods are contagious, died on Feb. 6

Sad news from the NYT: “Sigal Barsade, whose studies of organizational culture charted the internal dynamics of the American workplace as precisely as any episode of “The Office,” and who advised countless companies on how to embrace and nurture their employees’ emotional well-being, died on Feb. 6

… “For a long time, emotions were viewed as noise, a nuisance, something to be ignored,” she told MIT Sloan Management Review in 2020. “But one thing we now know after more than a quarter-century of research is that emotions are not noise — rather, they are data. They reveal not just how people feel, but also what they think and how they will behave.”

In one study, she showed that emotions and moods are contagious — that we unconsciously mimic the expressions and demeanors of those around us. She gave groups of people a task to complete together; unknown to the participants, she also assigned one person in each group to express a particular emotion — to lean back and scowl or lean forward and smile.

Those in the scowler’s group, she found, had a much harder time agreeing, while those sitting with the smiler came to a consensus faster and with much less conflict.

In another study, conducted with Hakan Ozcelik of California State University, Sacramento, she surveyed 650 people about loneliness in the office and found that it had a significant impact on productivity — but also that even a single office friend could offset those negative impacts.”

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