Workplace Emotions: How They Can Seriously Impact Business Decisions

Finally! In our world of data-driven commerce, the emotional component of business – long suppressed in many executive quarters – has found its moment in the spotlight!

In Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions by the Fortune Knowledge Group in collaboration with gyro, emotions have emerged as powerful new factors leaders are using to make long-term business decisions.  It seems that leaders awash in data are going ‘old-school’ and once again giving credence to their gut instincts.

Furthermore, the study asserts that your company culture can be as compelling – or as off-putting – as your product offering, and it can be one of the primary reasons you win or lose business.

So heads up talent and business leaders – your culture has further-reaching implications than you may have thought.

Strong reputations — and cultures — win

Choosing a business partner means choosing the people with whom you want to work.  More than half of the executives preferred to do business with companies that nurture “a strong company culture committed to shared goals” and place strong value on “respect for employees demonstrated by management.”

When choosing a business partner, company reputation was the most influential factor in leaders’ decision-making.

“We know that there’s a really strong relationship between companies that provide high-quality products and services and those that have a strong reputation for an engaged workforce,” says Peter Fasolo, VP Global HR at Johnson & Johnson.

Human factors are the deciding factors

Data is undoubtedly a powerful tool for executives, delivering them greater analytical depth than ever before. However, despite vast pools of information, the emotional still precedes the rational when it comes to business decisions.

Some 65 percent of executives surveyed believed subjective factors that can’t be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) increasingly make a difference when they’re evaluating business partners.

Analytics may inform, but emotions compel action.

Leaders from Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies and the 100 Best Companies to Work For lists support the survey’s emotion-first findings. In fact, the qualities revealed – powerful company cultures, strong relationships in the marketplace and a penchant for trust-based relationships – tend to be the same qualities that have helped these companies achieve their positions on the two lists.

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Executives trust their gut

Ironically, an unimaginable deluge of information has inspired a significant majority of executives to embrace their Id – to lean in and trust a more innate approach to decision-making.

Senior leaders have come to count on, and value, a heady mix of intangibles to guide them in a world overflowing with information. In fact, two-thirds of the executives said it’s often necessary to rely on gut feelings and soft factors (which they believe should be given the same weight as hard factors) and decisions shouldn’t be made on purely ‘functional factors,’ such as cost, quality or efficiency.

These emotional insights enhance data interpretation and executives agreed that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics.  Truly mindful leaders must also be careful not to selectively seek data merely to justify or confirm their instincts.

Long-term partnerships with trusted organizations

Interestingly, most executives want to seek partners with cultures and qualities similar to those they aspire to, even if they haven’t quite achieved those qualities themselves.

And, they are willing to sacrifice immediate bottom-line gain in favor of long-term liaisons with organizations they trust.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   




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