How to Understand and Manage Emotion in Teams: Part 3

by | Resources, News

How to Understand Group Emotions

A great team is an emotionally intelligent one, we have stated why that is in our previous 2 articles on the matter. It has also been mentioned, that in order to have a high EQ, one must be able to understand and know how to deal with other people’s emotions. However, are emotionally intelligent individuals enough to form an emotionally intelligent group? Not quite.

Even if every member of your team possesses a high EQ, this does not guarantee that the team will benefit from it. To understand why that is, we should have some insight into the difference between individual and group emotion.

What is group emotion?

Understanding Individual emotion was already covered in the previous articles. Essentially, you must learn to be aware of what another person is feeling and why that is. Providing context to a situation may lead to you empathizing with someone, rather than judging them for what they have expressed at the group meeting. Group emotion differs from individual emotion, so there is a different approach to understanding it.

emotion in teams part 3b

Collective emotion is expressed by all the individuals in the group at the same point in time. This means that the reaction generated would be stronger, no matter good or bad. An example of that could be:

You are at a meeting and you learn that funds have been cut from your department. Your area of research has been narrowed because of that. If the change was only made to inconvenience you as an individual, you would probably be mad but that is about it. Whereas, when the change concerns the whole team, there would perhaps be an outcry, the issue will be discussed and dealt with more actively.

We expect such an outcome because of how people behave in groups. Numerous studies have suggested that under the influence of a group, individuals are likely to act ‘out of character’ and in line with the group’s emotions. Also, when witnessing a coworker get upset, you would also get upset if you identify with this group you are both members of. That is called emotional contagion and is also partly why group emotion is stronger and more difficult to both understand and manage.

How to understand it?

Now that we have answered the lengthy question of what we are dealing with, it is time to focus on how or the fun part! To be able to acknowledge emotion at a group level, Harvard Business Review suggests that teams should employ norms for group self-awareness. This makes sense because being part of the team, one cannot really have an unbiased understanding of it. Two ways to gain better group awareness have been identified – through self-evaluation and feedback from others.


Self-evaluation can be employed in many ways, and we are going to show you a few examples. Is it that important though? According to a study by the College of Business at DePaul University, teams that have higher self-awareness are 30% more likely to have a better performance:

emotion in teams part 3e

  • A great way to facilitate group self-awareness is through casual sessions. Everyone could express what they find the team’s weaknesses and strengths to be. You can all take turns without interrupting each other. If the group is not big, the session could take the form of a discussion. Just make sure everyone participates.
  • If your team needs a small push in the right direction and starting the casual sessions is a bit difficult, you could use the Illustrations cards that KissTheFrogNOW provides you with! Think of a general question that everyone should answer. Here are some of the options we came up with:
    • What issue/good practice in our team do you associate this card with?
    • Which team member does this card remind you of and why?
    • What good/bad situation during work do you associate this card with?
  • Try and organize celebrations whenever your team has achieved something. Whether you all go and have a treat in the coffee shop close by, or you go for a fancy night out, it is the thought that counts. Recognizing achievement and good practices is as important for group self-awareness as recognizing the issues present. Such small celebrations also help team members be closer to each other!

Feedback from others

The great team recognizes critique as an opportunity to get better. There are many ways to receive feedback from the outside, but they differ due to the nature of the work. If you and your coworkers work on product development, your feedback will mainly come from customers. It may also come from people within the company, but outside your team. Do not hesitate to ask anyone outside of your group for their opinion and experience. Be ready to actually listen to them. If your industry offers them, take part in annual competitions. Those will give you the feedback you strive for, while also bringing the team closer together.

emotion in teams part 3a

The Harvard Business review shares a technique that has helped a team of designers to get feedback from outside their group. What they did was print out posters with their unfinished work on them. The posters also had a blank space intended for comments and critique.

By using the tips and tricks we have provided in this article, your team will become fluent in the language of group emotion. What is left to do is only learning how to regulate it! We will see you in the next article to show you how to complete this last step on your way to an emotionally intelligent team. Until then, try and strive for higher group self-evaluation and seek more feedback – practice makes perfect!


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by Mihaela Nikolova

Passionate about exploring the topic of emotional intelligence, teamwork and interpersonal relationships at the office.



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