Why unhappy bosses usually make subordinates unhappy, too
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Why unhappy bosses usually make subordinates unhappy, too

Do managers have a duty to be happy? Happiness isn’t listed in your job description, but if you lack it, your employees probably will, too.

The authors of the book Resonant Leadership – leadership coach Annie McKee and organizational psychologist Richard Boyatzis – say emotions are contagious in the workplace. So if you, the boss, are feeling unhappy, stressed or insecure, you’re going to spread these feelings around like the flu.

Stagnant pools
Boyatzis also uses another metaphor for the transfer of emotions in the workplace: water flowing downhill. A supervisor’s negativity pools with employees “like stagnant water,” he says.

And of course, unhappy employees aren’t likely to be very engaged or productive, making the boss even bluer.

What can you do if you suspect you’re giving people a dose of the unhappies? Keep a stiff upper lip and hide your feelings? That usually doesn’t work. People are adept at picking up verbal and non-verbal “tells” that something’s wrong.

Fighting the blues
This is where we get back to the duty to be happy. What will it take for you to fulfill that duty? There’s no single “happy-making” technique. However, McKee and Boyatzis suggest:

  • meditation
  • prayer
  • exercise
  • music, and/or
  • getting out into nature.

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