New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Neal M. Ashkanasy and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 25: Kindling Fires and Extinguishing Candles: The Wind of Mood Contagion in Work Groups
25 Kindling ﬁres and extinguishing candles: the wind of mood contagion in work groups Richard Saavedra In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner ﬁre goes out. It is then burst into ﬂame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. (Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, and musician, 1875–1965) Introduction As the members of the management department ﬁled into the conference room, it was clear that the afternoon promised a checkered experience. Mike, the group’s chair, was sulking. He could barely acknowledge the others as they sat around the table. When he did speak, his tone belied a coming storm. His eyebrows were furrowed, he was leaning toward the table, and his lips formed a tight line as he waited for the meeting to start. He was red, angry, and anxious to unfurl his dissatisfaction. Everyone knew it was going to be a taxing afternoon unless Mike was appeased. Appeasement could mean that the group had to abide by Mike’s every wish or it could mean that Mike would choose someone upon which to vent his rage. Members looked at one another and shuﬄed papers hoping he or she would not be the target of the day. People did not talk to one another for fear it would draw Mike’s attention, yet they all could sense the group’s mood. The goals for the meeting were all but forgotten because the primary goal was personal survival. To survive...
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