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Are You Emotionally Bonded?

Posted by: Jena McGregor on December 18, 2007

Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and General Electric’s soon-to-be chief innovation consultant and first “professor in residence,” has an interesting new paper out called “The Emotionally Bonded Organization: Why Emotional Infrastructure Matters and How Leaders Can Build On it.”

I like the concept of “emotional infrastructure.” Squishy, maybe, and “emotionally bonded” at first blush doesn’t sound like something I want to be to my company. But it’s less over-used and less of a cliche than “culture” or “engagement,” and that’s why I like it. Govindarajan, with co-author Subroto Bagchi, a co-founder of Indian IT services company MindTree, define “emotional infrastructure” as “what engenders a healthy emotional climate within an organization; it consists of many emotional assets that lead to aggregated positive feelings employees have for the organization and for each other.”

But what really makes the word a nice metaphor for a positive, healthy culture is the word “infrastructure.” Organizations that are “emotionally bonded,” as Govindarajan calls them, have a better chance of withstanding the blows of a bad quarter, a disruptive competitor, or a product failure. The emotional infrastructure (just as physical or technological structures would) helps to keep them together.

After the jump, the 8 factors the authors say will help build emotional infrastructure:

>>their leaders are accessible in times of need

>>their leaders are transparent, trustworthy, and communicative

>>they believe the institution is truly one of a kind

>>their leaders demonstrate that they genuinely care about their people in times of adversity

>>they understand how to let rich and supportive social networks grow within the institution

>>they feel they have a real opportunity to attain the unattainable as they contribute to a higher mission

>>they think they are special just for being a part of the institution

Reader Comments

Kumar D Kapasi

December 19, 2007 11:46 AM

I would like to suggest the 9th factor:

>> they respect that people need to have a life of their own outside the company.

Most companies in their urge to keep the growth momentum make unreasonable demands on their people and that's what causes (a) stress, (b) serious psychological (emotional) and physical health problems, (c) marital, familial and social breakdowns, and last, but not the least (d) loss of happiness and sense of wellbeing.

There is more to life than money, material possessions and status.

Economic / commercial success at the cost of health, happiness and morality is highly dangerous to the society in the near, medium and long term.


December 19, 2007 1:47 PM

Amazing what passes for groundbreaking research in the b-school world. Read Maister's "Practice What You Preach" from 2000 and find almost identical conclusions - just not wrapped up in new weasel words. The triumph of marketing over truth...


December 19, 2007 10:37 PM

I don't think all those assertions provided through a thorough research depicts the issue on its extent. It's beautiful to emphasize each aspect of culture or "emotional bonds", but this should be tackled in day-to-day operations.
It cannot be described, it has to be felt.
It says: "Autonomous nervous system controls our feelings, our emotional opinion. On the other hand, central nervous system is responsible for reason itself,logic; a concept that you have of yourself."
So, the main idea is that those concepts, well-organized as rules, cannot serve as true steps towards establishing emotional bonds because it's the use of concepts over feelings. What has to be taught is how to search your inner soul for ways to deal with your stakeholders and address their problems rather than memorizing standard steps.
It's simply like a family, build true relationships and nurture them, thus, reaching so-revered emotional bonds.

nitish ranjan

December 20, 2007 2:55 AM

I think, emotional infrastructure is one vertex of an equiliateral triangle; others certical are technological infrastructure and phyisical infrastrcuture.


December 23, 2007 8:58 AM

Im an HR Leader and I see this as another management ideology to tie people to their jobs and the organization for life, truth is, the workplace isnt a playpen, neither is it a 'forever' entity. What this will create is what the Japanese have practiced for eons and are desperatly trying to wean their corporations away from.I do not underestimate the improtance of emotional intelligence, what I rather would be careful of is creating equilibriums and processes of emotional strata within organizations far and above what is nessesary, short of creating the company Myspace or facebook.


December 30, 2007 10:33 PM

I would prefer to use the word "attachment" rather than "bonding". The phrase Emotional Attachment evokes a more positive response than the phrase Emotional Bonding.

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