February 13, 2008
Emotions in [Work] Space
Kirk: You're not going to admit that, for the first time in your life, you made a completely emotional decision based on desperation?
Spock: No, sir.
Kirk: Mr. Spock, you're a stubborn man.
Spock: Yes, Sir.[i]
In the original 1960s television series Star Trek a central thematic arc was the inherent conflict between logic and emotion, as depicted though the character of half-human Mr. Spock. According to Spock the most logical course of action is always down the path of reason. He found humans to be fully illogical, largely a result of their susceptibility to their emotions. As the series progressed, the Vulcan’s attachment to his captain and friend, James T. Kirk, and his fellow crewmates grows and evolves to supersede his logic. This caused some fascinating narrative tension, and allowed the viewer to question the role emotions play in their lives.
Clearly, the need to understand oneself and our relation to others remains vital to the Star Trek ethos, for the second installment of the franchise[ii] would continue this dialectic through the character of Data, an android which tried to learn and understand human behaviours and emotions throughout his time on the iconic spaceship. Indeed, if we learned anything at all from Spock’s and Data’s journeys, we learned that emotions are an irrevocable human trait; and what matters most is what we do with those emotions. If we move from the bridge to the boardroom I believe we can apply the same tenet: emotions will always be present in the workforce; what is most important is how we manage them.
Perhaps the distance between logic and emotion is not as large after all. In the end, a better understanding how an employee’s personality, mood, and emotional intelligence combine to affect their reactions to both positive and negative emotions can better prepare a manager to predict and manage the employee’s behaviour and, ultimately, their overall work performance.
[i] "The Galileo Seven." Star Trek. By Oliver Crawford. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley. NBC. WBCN, Boston. 5 January, 1967.
[ii] See Star Trek: The New Generation. By Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton. Paramount, 1987-1994.