#14 The Mood Barometer

21 June 2019 | 6 min read


Moods are very natural human states of minds. The better you understand them, the more successful you will be as a leader.

So let´s have a look at it!

First of all the mood in your organisation will give you clues as to whether you are on the right track or not with your OD measures.

If your OD measures go well, you will notice the following:

  • Your employees are actively involved.
  • They ask constructive implementation questions.
  • They may be stressed, but still positive.
  • They react with humour when things don’t go well.
  • They understand the objectives and make constructive suggestions for improvement.
  • They support each other and can deal with failures.
  • They are proud to be part of the changes. 

If you proceed too quickly and too mechanically, or if you want to develop your organisation in a way that does not (yet) suit it, you will notice that people are holding back and no longer participating, you will notice lots of negative vibes. The following clues will tell you that you may not be on the right track right :

  • You will not notice any changes in the behaviour of your employees.
  • You and your employees are frustrated with the process.
  • Very skilled people quit.
  • There is a bad mood.
  • The desired outcomes are not occurring.
  • Everyone is exhausted and no longer understands the big picture. 
  • Cynicism and a culture of mistrust intensify.
  • You are constantly restructuring.

And also, moods like thoughts are transients. They come and go, so take the time that you need to observe and feel what is going on in you and with your staff. You don’t have to react or take seriously every slight movement of mood that you observe, as human beings we tend to have changing emotional states which is very normal. But if you see that a particular negative state of mood is recurring or even starts to become part of the organisation culture, it is where you need to think about might it mean and about the kind of intervention you need to put in place to change it.

The use of mood as a a leverage for change: real life cases from reconstructed work situations


A long time ago I sat in a coaching appointment with a division manager from a large corporation. He seemed very tired and frustrated that day. I asked him what was on his mind. His answer: “My employees.”

“What about them? – They won’t change, I always repeat the same thing and nothing happens. But we need to change in order to move forward!

“What should your employees change?” – ” Their thinking, their behaviour,  the passive behaviour, yesterday’s behaviour. “

“Do you have a concrete example? A situation you’re thinking about?” ‒

“No, there are so many, every day I have this feeling that we’re not getting anywhere.”

“Think for a moment about a concrete situation that is typical of what you mean. Maybe you can learn something from it if we analyse it a little deeper.” – Silence.” Well, I have an example.” And he talked about a challenging situation he was in with an employee. His assessment was: “She just doesn’t want it! And neither do the others.”

I was well aware of his stress and listened deeply but then after he had described the situation I asked him: “Is that true?”.

“Obviously!” was his quick answer.

“Can you be sure she just doesn’t want it?” ….. “No, I’m not really sure… I can’t see through it…. and I don’t think it’s that simple either.”

“How do you react in conversation with her? what happens when you have the thought in your head that she just doesn’t want it?”

Calmly, he replies, “I’m preparing inside, thinking: Not again! I have a feeling there’s something I don’t understand, but I just don’t want the explanations anymore.

I think of all of the other employees who behave similarly, I worry that I won’t be able to manage with this team. It’s really depressing. I don’t want to be authoritarian, it’s not my leadership style, but there’s no other way. I sent her an e-mail in which I authoritatively asked her to follow the new process. I don’t want to meet with her because I know that I will be very aggressive and it won’t lead to anything.” His voice is firm. He breathes deeply.

“What is it that you can’t see in the situation? – Silence. Pause. He breathes calmly again… “That we’ve actually already achieved a lot, that I’ve asked the whole team this year to make even more of an effort to achieve the very ambitious goal we had. And we have done it. I’m just noticing that in recent years I’ve only paid attention to the quantitative targets. And although I’ve always demanded it, I didn’t really pay any attention to how cultural change could be achieved. The operational pressure was too high.”

“What does that mean in terms of the situation with this employee?” – “Well!” She simply makes economic sense and so do the others. When things get tough, they simply go back to the behaviors and processes that they know and these are easy, quick. If I put any more pressure on her, I’ll create a dilemma for her. It’s a little unfair.”

“What conclusions do you draw from this with regard to the bigger picture?” – I don’t know yet, I want to talk to the management team again about what we should focus on in the future and what we should do differently. It affects everyone.”

A personal note:  

The human image that generally shapes my actions as a coach and consultant is that every person is fundamentally good and strives to do well. When I encounter conflicts, boycotts, passive-aggressive behavior, distrust, cynicism, etc. during my time working in a company, I know that there is always a reason behind it, and together with the client, we go in search of causes and solutions.

Golden Management Rule

Be aware of your attitude and your own feelings. You are a good sensor. If you notice that you are becoming too negative, ask yourself whether the thought that is causing stress is really true and what you can do about it.

Your emotions are your allies, the better you understand them, the better you will be able to act as a manager.


I sometimes hear managers complaining about their employees: “They don’t understand”, “it’s difficult with the people we have”, “they’re too slow”, “they don’t want”. Do you have similar thoughts about your employees sometimes? I understand. You don’t have an easy task and organisational development can sometimes be very frustrating. But are your employees really as you describe them? And even if they are, what do you think is the reason?

I remember a division where my support was requested due to conflicts in management and a poor mood. The numerous meetings, workshops and team building activities that had taken place seemed to ensure that everyone could do their work, but the friction caused by the bad mood cost everyone a lot of energy. Nobody dared to address the issue directly.

“What’s the reason the mood here is so bad? And what can you all do together to improve it,” I asked, first in a small group and then in a larger group. Everyone was surprised to hear these questions asked so directly. There was a heavy silence for a while but then the energy started moving. The first person started to talking, then the second one etc.. The ensuing discussion was very emotionally charged. But it was also honest and open. We had exciting, courageous, purifying and constructive conversations. In the end, the discrepancies were resolved and the atmosphere was cleared, allowing for a healthy working atmosphere to emerge. 

Moods that show up through the emotions, feelings and behaviors of individuals can always be used as a barometer to recognise what is going well or badly in your organisation. There’s no reason to be afraid of them. If everyone is very committed and still smiles, it is a sign that you are already doing something right. However, if the emotions in the organisation become heated and the conflicts accumulate, it is essential to address the issue so that the bad mood does not become a culture, an organizational habit. If you courageously look for the causes, you will also understand what is behind it, and that is a first step towards a solution and healing.

Please don’t forget: We all have our basic human needs, search for happiness and moods. With respect and appreciation, with a strong listening culture, a meaningful and clear communication, your trust, a sense of belonging there is a high likelihood that you will see more and more smiling people in your organization.

People may forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

Maya Angelou, African-American writer and civil rights activist

You find more advice in my Corporate Coaching!


Written by Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth

Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind.

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