Be positive, even when you need to fake it

Chiara Amati‘s doctoral research at Edinburgh’s Napier University found that managers need to behave positively at work, especially with their staff.

The study was based on a small sample (interviews with 12 managers and a survey of 30 managers) and seems to contradict the widely-held view that managers need to be authentic, open and honest. But it sort of makes sense, doesn’t it: a manager’s positive attitude, even when it covers up unhelpful, private thoughts or misgivings, helps employees perform well and maintains good working relationships with their team.

Amati says this seems particularly true in the case of first-line managers, who need strong influencing skills to get people to do things because they lack the authority to ‘command’.

Amati also believes that positivity is even more important for female managers than their male counterparts because females need to deal with contrasting workplace stereotypes. She explains that women are expected to be warm and nurturing but not display emotions such as crying, which is seen as manipulative.

In short, managers need to put on a public show even when they don’t feel like it–at least sometimes.

Discussion questions

In your experience, does faking positive emotions seem to be part of good people management? How does this study relate to emotional intelligence? When might it not be a good idea for a manager to cover up negative emotions or doubts? Does gender come into this picture for you? If Amati’s findings hold true in Scotland, would they necessarily hold true in Australia?