Reframing a workplace meltdown as “passion” may improve your reputation
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Had a workplace meltdown?
If you feel like you’re never going to live it down, there may be hope.
People who reframe a show of distress as passion, and not a lack of emotional control, are seen as more competent. They are also more likely to be hired and chosen as a collaborator, according to a new study.
The researchers from Cornell University conducted five experiments to assess how people viewed others’ responses to stressful situations (aka the ole workplace meltdown).
The first two experiments revealed that people who heard others say, “I was very passionate” versus “I was very emotional” about a stressful incident perceived the person expressing passion as more competent.
The next study asked people to think about a time when a coworker expressed distress and then describe how it showed the coworker was either emotional or passionate.
Getting people to reframe their coworkers’ distress as passion altered their perceptions of their coworkers’ competence.
The final two studies demonstrated that emotion reframing can influence interpersonal decisions.
Reframing distress as passion and not emotion led to higher perceptions of competence which led people to say they would be more likely to hire the passionate job candidates or choose them as collaborators on a project.
Lead researcher, Sunita Sah, assistant professor of management and organizations at Cornell University, said:
Our studies show that reframing distress as passion changes how other people assess your competence.
You can take some control of the situation after the event by reframing it to others as, ‘I was upset because I’m very passionate about this project.
Emotion reframing appears to work because emotionality tends to be associated with negative attributes, such as an inability to act and think rationally and make sound decisions
Being passionate is often stated as an important attribute for employees; passion is associated with determination, motivation and having a high degree of self-control.
Being emotional, however, has almost a negative mirror effect and is associated with irrationality, instability, ineptitude and a low degree of self-control.
What’s also interesting about this study is that earlier research in emotion regulation has shown that “cognitive reappraisal” – that is, changing how you think about a situation – can help you feel differently about it (e.g. if you are anxious about a performance you can reappraise the anxiety as excitement, and feel more positively about the performance).
This study was the first to look at whether you can use a public reframing of emotion (the researchers call it “emotion reframing” to influence another person’s perception of an event.
The study was published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (Baily Wolf et al., 2016)
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