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Challenging Times Show the Need for Managers to Choose the Right Response to Their Team’s Emotions


When managers contend with a wide range of emotions among their team members, an effective response requires a carefully chosen strategy, according to a new essay.

Writing in the MIT Sloan Management Review, Ross School of Business professors Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks and Lindy Greer, and PhD student Christina Bradley, discuss the importance of effectively responding to varied emotions on a team.

“By supporting emotional expression within their teams, leaders can help their organizations function at their best,” the authors write.

Drawing on their experience teaching executives, the authors describe how old-school efforts to build morale through enthusiastic efforts to “rally the troops” are generally ineffective. Instead, managers should carefully evaluate the situation and then choose the appropriate strategy to respond.

“Rather than homogenizing the emotional experience at work, managers would be wise to deploy a much more tailored approach to emotion management that takes into account the nature of the task at hand and the ideal emotional landscape for that task,” the authors write. 

The article describes four potential types of responses managers might employ:

  • Nurturing emotions
  • Aligning emotions
  • Acknowledging emotions
  • Diversifying emotions

“It’s not that this leadership work was not required all along. Rather, the extremely emotional and dynamic events of 2020 are finally forcing leaders to do this difficult work,” the authors conclude.

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