In today’s workplaces, emotional expression is receiving more attention as compared to the 20th century workplace, where emotional expression was seen as ineffective and even a liability as a means of communication (Lau, 2020). Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to effectively perceive, understand, and manage one’s own emotions and that of others (Goleman, 1998). Jia and Cheng’s (2021) research suggests that emotional expression is often contagious and can promote positive outcomes like improved cooperation, minimized conflicts, and better task performance in the workplace. In the organizational research literature, emotional intelligence has been positively linked to conflict management, job performance, leadership effectiveness, team effectiveness, and organizational commitment (O’Boyle Jr., et al., 2011; Grobelny et al., 2021).
Intelligent emotional expression provides feedback through more than just words, as it fosters an environment that values openness, communication, and transparency. Malicious or neglectful emotional expression can create confusion, anger, and a hostile work environment. One tool for understanding emotional expression in the workplace is the Johari Window Model, developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others (Wierenga, 2015). The model (Verklan, 2007) involves a chart with two-by-two quadrants resembling a paned window. The x-axis is labeled “Known by self” and the y-axis is labeled “Known by others.” The top left quadrant the “Open Area” represents everything that is openly known by oneself and others, it is what is shared publicly or already known. The top right quadrant the “Blind Area” represents what is unknown by self but known by others, as in what others may perceive about an individual and those perceptions are unknown to the individual. The bottom left quadrant the “Hidden Area” encompasses what is known by self but unknown by others; it includes the perceptions and feelings that are known by an individual but not shared with others. The last quadrant the “Unknown Area” includes the information and perceptions that are unknown by self and unknown by others and includes emotions that are yet to be discovered.
A review by Wierenga (2015), suggests that we work most effectively and productively when communication and cooperation occur free from distractions, mistrust, confusion, and misunderstandings. Thus, an implication of the Johari Window model is to develop an open area of communication for all individuals and the workgroup. The open area can be expanded through the open expression of ideas, perceptions, and in this case emotions. The expansion of the open area can shrink the blind area through the solicitation of feedback, which may include someone letting an individual know what they felt about a situation or that person’s character. The expansion of the open area can shrink the hidden areas through self-discovery, i.e., an individual finds out more about themselves and an understanding of their emotions and behaviors which becomes apparent to others. The expansion of the open area can shrink the unknown areas through shared discovery, for example, as the workgroup tackles a new issue in uncharted territory, new emotions and perceptions become known to all team members. Thus, the Johari window is a tool for fostering emotional intelligence in interpersonal interactions through a discussion of the open, blind, hidden, and unknown expression of emotions in the workplace.
Over the past few years, articles in digital print media have discussed ways of promoting emotional intelligence and awareness in the workplace. For example, in Forbes, Lau (2020) discusses how the open expression of emotions both negative and positive can be contagious and that openly positive workplace cultures lead to increased commitment and lower burnout. Understanding the language of emotions, conducting check-ins, encouraging positive emotions, and having honest leadership are some recommended suggestions for fostering emotional intelligence in the workplace. Others in digital print media highlight the concept of emotional intelligence as “emotional acknowledgment,” being aware of or noticing non-verbal emotional cues through verbal questioning or statements (Kinni, 2021). Acknowledgment of expressed or spreading emotions can thus expand the open area as indicated in the Johari Window model while shrinking the blind, hidden, and unknown areas.
Similarly, other authors discuss how we recognize emotions and shift our approach to our own emotions, and the emotions of others can lead to better workplace climates and outcomes. For example, Vasel (2019) discusses how showing recognition of a bad mood and being transparent and open about one’s feelings with co-workers or groups can alleviate uncertainty and encourage others to share emotions at work. Having an accessible open line of communication that expresses honesty and the recognition of employees are also ways to increase transparency and openness in the workplace (Peterson, 2021). When employees vent or express discontent, a conversation should be had on what can be done better and acknowledge how they are feeling (Vasel, 2019). This implies that recognizing emotions and encouraging open conversation can address hidden feelings others may be blind to while expanding the open area.
Other media highlights how fostering open emotional expression in the workplace empowers employees to take ownership of their communications and decisions as a team. For instance, Blotky (2018) recommends that leaders can demonstrate openness by being personal, and sharing appropriate inner perspectives on events, trends, and present challenges. Openness can also be practiced by sharing emotions internally before they are shared externally in one-on-one or team settings. Further, providing feedback can help promote self-improvement, and showing open enthusiasm can build trust and excitement with others unfamiliar with a project or issue (Blotky, 2018). Thus, open leadership in team environments shrinks the unknown area by empowering members to openly express concerns and perspectives toward current and future objectives.
Taken together, the examples in digital print media discussed above showcase the need to understand the role of emotions in the workplace and suggest how emotions can be expressed through effective communication. The Johari Window can be a valuable aid for organizations trying to develop a more emotionally intelligent work environment. Recognizing emotions and being transparent in communication can lead to conflict management, leadership effectiveness, and improved communication in the workplace.
Blotky, A. (2018, July 31). Openness and culture in the workplace. Blotky 2018 Leadership Group. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.azureleadership.com/news/2018/7/31/openness-and-culture-in-the-workplace.
Goleman, D. (1998). What Makes a Leader? (Harvard Business Review Classics). Harvard Business Press.
Grobelny, J., Radke, P., & Paniotova-Maczka, D. (2021). Emotional intelligence and job performance: a meta-analysis. International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, 12(1), 1-47.
Jia, M., & Cheng, J. (2021). Emotional Experiences in the Workplace: Biological Sex, Supervisor Nonverbal Behaviors, and Subordinate Susceptibility to Emotional Contagion. Psychological Reports, 124(4), 1687–1714. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294120940552
Kinni, T. (2021, May 13). All the feels: Why it pays to notice emotions in the Workplace. Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/all-feels-why-it-pays-notice-emotions-workplace.
Lau, Y. (2020, May 6). Council post: Bringing emotions into the Workplace. Forbes. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2020/05/06/bringing-emotions-into-the-workplace/?sh=1c94ce6e162d.
O’Boyle Jr, E. H., Humphrey, R. H., Pollack, J. M., Hawver, T. H., & Story, P. A. (2011). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32(5), 788-818.
Peterson, M. (2021, July 7). Transparency with employees: How openness plays a key role in a positive employee experience. Limeade. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.limeade.com/resources/blog/transparency-with-employees-openness-key-role-positive-employee-experience/.
Vasel, K. (2019, April 24). Your boss’ bad mood really does affect the rest of … – CNN. CNN Business. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/24/success/emotions-mood-workplace/index.html.
Verklan, M. T. (2007). Johari window. Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 21(2), 173–174. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.jpn.0000270636.34982.c8.
Wierenga, D. (2015, March 10). Emotional intelligence through Johari Windows. LinkedIn. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/increasing-emotional-intelligence-through-opening-johari-dan-wierenga/.