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Workplace Engagement InsightsLatest Employee Engagement NewsLeadershipStress and Employee Performance – Emotions on the Job

Stress and Employee Performance – Emotions on the Job

In my work measuring employee engagement and coaching leaders on how to get top performance, I often remind companies and employees that one of the most important elements of gaining active engagement from employees is being focused on “emotional” engagement.

Usually, leaders think that if we are clear about what needs to be done and we give employees the right tools to do the job, we will get the best results. This is a naïve view of leadership that tends to view leadership through the lens of “managing” rather than leading.

The best leaders understand, and are very deliberate in managing, the emotional needs of their team –not just the cognitive or rational elements like clarity of targets and having the correct tools.

Dealing with emotional elements requires a fundamental understanding of the extreme complexity of the role of emotions and their impact on our cognitive skills. This recent article in The Toronto Star, “How trauma affects the brain: Doctors’ Notes” is an excellent read for leaders and aspiring leaders.

My sincere thanks to the author Dr. Dana Ross. I want to quote from one select paragraph, but I highly recommend reading the entire article:

“A third area of the brain to consider when understanding the impact of trauma is the prefrontal cortex which is located in the very front of the brain. The region normally helps us think, plan and solve problems and brain imaging shows it goes ‘offline’ with far less activity when undergoing a trauma – or reliving one. Meanwhile, the amygdala lights up like a Christmas tree so your fear centre is charged up, but you don’t have the planning and thinking section of your brain working well which makes it difficult to focus, problem-solve and feel present.”

Wow, thank you for that.

Let’s apply this to the workplace; when we introduce unusual stress in the work environment, we are likely to cause our employees to be less able to function up to their own capacity.

I explain this in my video:

What is your team going through right now that could be causing a lack of performance? Rumours of downsizing? Rumours of a takeover? A recent blow up in a team meeting? A recent disciplining of an employee that has hit the grape vine? The firing of the direct boss? A merger? A demanding and uncompassionate manager?

Any one of these things can cause employees to fear for their future and begin to shut down – and even look for work elsewhere.


Workplace Engagement Insights offers customized leadership coaching and workshops. We are experienced working with all organizations from small businesses to large multi-national corporations. Let’s discuss your needs today.

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Written by Dwight Lacey

Dwight Lacey

Dwight is the President at Workplace Engagement Insights. He leads Workplace Engagement Insights with a clear understanding of the latest employee engagement research, survey best practices, and leadership styles that create successful businesses.

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