During these straining times, it is difficult not to want to turn on the news to keep abreast of the latest development on COVID-19.  And to be frank, after listening to the news, our stress levels have probably risen.   I would like to criticize the media for fear mongering, but the media would deny this and would state that it is part of their freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Although worldwide panic has not yet erupted, it cannot be denied that people are scared and that we are living in uncertain times.   But besides eradicating COVID-19, we need to eradicate something of equal importance.   Sigal Barsade call this in her Harvard Business Review article “The Contagion We Can Control” negative emotional contagion. Especially now, we need to make positive emotions the new infection.

As Barsade states:

“When you have legitimate reason to worry, as we do now, you’re even more likely to be influenced by every else’s justifiable fear. It’s easy to become infected by the negative emotions of coworkers, the newscaster you’re watching, friends on social media, or your family. In effect, you catch their anxiety and transfer it to others, who relay it back to you in an almost unending circuit of negative emotions.”

If you are one of the essential services that is still operating, the last thing you want as a business leader is to spread the negative emotional contagion in your company. Your team members are already on the edge and are being infected with this negative emotional contagion. But for you as a business leader to do your part, you need to be less infected with these negative emotions. So where do you as a business leader start?

Just like Barsade, I recommend cutting down on engaging with venues that are using fear mongering to drive the increase in their audience. This does not mean that you need to close yourself of from all information. It means that you need to get your information from reliable and objective sources.

And once you as a business leader are less negatively emotionally contagious, you can calm your team members down by sharing the reliable and objective information with them.  And by doing this, you will be spreading positive emotional contagion.

by Darin Crouch