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Did You Know Your Emotions Are Contagious?

Written by: Galit Cohen, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The best manager I ever had was at a restaurant I worked at when I was 21 years old.

If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant, you know how stressful it can be. During the busiest hours, waitstaff can have up to six or seven tables that they’re taking care of.

Hosts need to manage distributing new guests evenly between servers on the floor, while also accommodating guest requests (i.e., seating guests in a booth away from the air conditioner or at a table near the bar).

Cooks have to whip up large amounts of food quickly while keeping it high quality and adhering to any modifications guests have requested.

Busboys have to make sure they are on their A-game, cleaning off the whole restaurant's tables as efficiently as possible in order to get new guests seated and taken care of as quickly as possible.

Last, but certainly not least, managers have to oversee all of these moving parts, while also managing guest requests, complaints and everything in between.

I had two managers at this particular restaurant, temperamental Tim, who was our general manager, and cool, calm and collected Claude, who was the assistant manager (names have been modified).

Even though Claude was the assistant manager, I always looked to him first. When I had a question, I went to Claude. When I had a concern, I went to Claude. When I had good news to share, I went to Claude.

I gravitated toward Claude because he was the epitome of composed. Something that I needed in an already hectic workplace.

No matter how busy we were, or how many people around him were angry or distressed, he projected a calm presence and always had his emotions under control.

Tim, on the other hand, was unpredictable.

There were days where he was our best friend, cracking jokes with us and encouraging us during our most stressful shifts.

There were days where he sent us home without warning for not having enough “pep in our step.”

And there were days where he felt like a silent dark cloud. Anger and angst seemed to follow him around anywhere we walked, infecting anyone he encountered.

I remember thinking “I feel like I caught his bad mood” as though it was an illness.

Fast forward to today, I now know that emotions are contagious, and that I did in fact catch his bad mood!

Leaders' emotions affect everyone around them.

As humans, it’s in our physiology to take our cues from the top.

Our brain’s emotional center, the limbic system, depends mostly on external sources to regulate itself. This means other people can change our physiology and thus our emotions as well. This is called emotional contagion.

Emotion contagion can work both ways. Anxiety and fear can spread, but so can enthusiasm and hope.

This is a huge reason why I, along with many of my colleagues at the time, gravitated toward Claude. We wanted to plug into calm and composed energy rather than Tom’s rollercoaster of internal chaos.

Ultimately, every individual is responsible for regulating their own emotions. However, it is irresponsible and potentially very damaging for a leader to assume that their emotions have no effect on their team.

In fact, Daniel Goleman’s research has shown that “for every 1% improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2% increase in revenue” (Goleman, 2013).

The example I used may be from a restaurant but leaders who are unable to effectively manage their emotions exist across all industries.

Leaders, ask yourself:

  1. What types of emotion do I give off and how does that affect others I interact with, like my colleagues?

  2. Are there changes I need to make?

  3. How can I use my emotions as a force for good?

Follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn or visit my website for more info.


Galit Cohen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Galit F. Cohen is a leadership coach specializing in evolving Emotional Intelligence. Galit brings a unique perspective from growing up in a multicultural household, which provided her with a trifocal lens to examine her relationship with others.

Galit is a fierce advocate for positive self-talk and passionate about empowering others to overcome self-doubt. She believes there is something magical about each person and loves helping others find that magic within themselves.

Galit holds a master's degree in Organization Development and Leadership and bachelors degree in Communication and International Studies. She has been featured in Ariana Huffington's Thrive Global and Authority Magazine.



  • Goleman, Daniel. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2013.



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