Teamwork Versus a Noose

NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.
Joy - the muscle around the eye tightens, creating a twinkle in the eye
happiness - broad smiles, cheeks raised
NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.

Yes, there are people who consider happiness a “trivial” emotion in the business world. “Back to your desk and get to work.” Those might be the words of a domineering, old-fashioned boss. But truth be told, happiness is essentially about embracing others, yourself and new ideas. It’s an emotion that grows the pie. I’ve been thinking about the power of happiness this week because the country’s boss-man, Donald Trump, decided it would profit his campaign or simply his id to attack NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace in a tweet. Wallace’s response: “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”

The noose found in Wallace’s stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama by his race team led to NASCAR in general and racing legend Richard Petty in particular embracing the sport’s only full-time black driver. Due to Wallace’s cap and Petty’s sunglasses, I can’t say for sure. But given their expansive, inviting smiles, I would bet big-time that both guys are actually exhibiting joyous, true smiles, whereby the muscle around the eye tightens and creates a twinkle in the eye.

Happiness is also on my mind this week because, for my podcast, I interviewed a cheerful Caroline Stokes. One of her book’s best ideas is that a new hire would benefit from a small support team meeting at the end of that person’s first week on the job, and again at the 50- and 100-day mark, to help the new hire navigate without “crashing”. Such assistance made me think of Wallace and his 43 team yet again because doesn’t a support team function in effect like a NASCAR pit crew? Change the tires, refuel the tank, and you’re quickly on your way. If only the Trump administration’s response to covid-19 could function half as well.

Getting Up to Speed in a New Job

Released today: episode 9 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Caroline Stokes, author of Elephants Before Unicorns. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe, and give a rating and review on iTunes.

Photo of guest author Caroline Stokes and her book Elephants Before Unicorns, on Episode 9 of Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast "Do You Want To Be an Ostrich?"
This episode covers on-boarding, diversity and more.

How does avoidance of conflict ultimately create more conflict in the workplace?

Stokes is the CEO of FORWARD, and the podcast host of The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter. She is an award-winning leadership coach and thinker, partnering with global leaders throughout their career and leadership cycle.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The emotions that inadvertently inspire the behavior of both push-over and bully bosses, and the likely emotional responses of their direct reports.
  • How the risk of employee disengagement can get short-circuited before it happens.
  • What are steps that can ensure a better on-boarding experience for the new employee, including CEO’s (whose turn-over rate is 50% within the first 18 months on the job).

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Emotional DNA

Mark Zuckerberg's emotional DNA

Next up in my series on the celebrities I analyzed for Famous Faces Decoded is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, born on this day in 1984. Which two emotions most distinguish Zuckerberg from the 173 celebrities I facially coded for my book?

The people I surveyed said happiness and joy. The truth is, yes, joy distinguishes Zuckerberg – as shown here. With a true, joyful smile, the muscle around the eye tightens, creating a sparkle that can’t be readily faked. Think of joy as the equivalent of drinking champagne, which Zuckerberg can afford many cases of at this point in his career! In contrast, what is Zuckerberg’s second most characteristic emotion? It’s anger; should you doubt me, check out his appearances before Congress in April of 2018. As to Zuckerberg’s least characteristic emotion, it’s fear.

Audrey Hepburn’s Emotional DNA

Audrey Hepburn's emotional DNA

For the next year, I’ll be highlighting the celebrities I covered in my book Famous Faces Decoded. First up is film star Audrey Hepburn, born on this day in 1929 and perhaps most famous for starring in the movies Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Which two emotions most characterize Hepburn? The people I surveyed for my book thought the answers were happiness and joy. How accurate were they? Happiness, yes plenty of low-grade smiles. Joy? No, Hepburn’s second signature emotion is instead fear. People’s accuracy for assessing this movie star’s emotional DNA was 50% correct. Note her raised eyebrows and widened eyes, both signs of her characteristic fear.

Spotting Bullies at Work

Narendra Modi as Authoritarian Bully

As a kid, I learned the value of spotting the bullies on my elementary school playground. One bully liked to sit on kids, squashing them with his weight. Another bully wore cowboy boots and, boy, did it hurt if he managed to kick you in the shins. But how about at work: assuming nobody is physically assaulting anybody else, could bullying be playing a role in destroying productivity and morale? How might you nip that in the bud, if you find it? The answer would require knowing what to look for, emotionally speaking.

The surest signs, I believe, consist of a larger-than-usual volume of a pair of emotions, often shown in tandem: anger and disgust. I came to that conclusion by studying world leaders for my book Two Cheers for Democracy. Analyzing the facial expressions of world leaders and correlating the results to how Freedom House ranked the degree of “civic openness” in countries across the globe, I asked the question: which emotions most reliably signal a tendency toward being a dictator—a bully–instead of being democratically inclined? The answer is anger and disgust, along with a relative absence of happiness. A case in point is India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. Note on the Time magazine cover how his upper lip is flared in disgust, while his eyes are narrowed and lips are pressed together in anger. Recently, Modi sought to have the country’s Supreme Court require the media to publish only his government’s official accounts of how the covid-19 pandemic is impacting India. While the Supreme Court didn’t rule in favor of that demand, media stories about the Modi government’s “inspiring and positive” efforts on this crisis are increasingly all that can be found, as harassment of “naysayers” builds in severity.

In holding a private counseling session with an office bully, remember that anger revolves around a desire for control, to have matters unfold in a manner of that person’s choosing. Disgust, in turn, can signal that a bully finds someone else’s ideas revolting (and a revolt against the bully’s own preferences). Wherever their presence exists, what additional emotion does anger and disgust tend to develop in others? The answer is fear, as people freeze because nobody dares to move on their own accord. Regrettably, that reaction can allow would-be dictators to orchestrate the outcomes they alone want. There is, however, an antidote to the most destructive qualities of anger and disgust. Find a gentle way to “drop” into your conversation with a bully the fact that research indicates the value of happiness. Genuine happiness, as opposed to official happy talk, can lead to superior solutions arrived at more quickly, when we all stay open to brainstorming better options.