Mood Management

Moods influence possibilities. The topic of mood management summarizes how moods are dealt with in different types of organizations, and how important it is to find ways in which moods that are supportive of the intended outcomes are encouraged

A New Perspective

Every historical stage has a distinct perspective on mood management, and different practices:

Red organizations

In Red Organizations mood management boils down to submission to the mood of the (tribal) chief and his “family”. They oversee the foot soldiers. Fear and submission keep the organization from disintegrating.

Amber organizations

In Amber organizations the most senior 'knows' what is best for those lower in the hierarchy. These expectations are managed via roles and rules. Rewards are for those who follow the rules, and punishments for those who don’t. People may value this order and predictability.

Orange organizations

In Orange organizations it's about planned and efficient outcomes. Incentives are commonly used to achieve these organizational outcomes. They are designed to motivate/reward certain kinds of action, but not necessarily the feelings, or moods, that go with them.

Green organizations

In Green organizations harmony, tolerance and equality are valued. Teams and their health are important. The purpose is to boost motivation. HR may operate via processes like culture initiatives, 360-degree feedback and employee satisfaction surveys. Now there is a conscious focus on mood appearing. There is often an effort to satisfy all stakeholder needs (or moods).

Teal organizations

  • Mood Management is seen as integral and crucial to the creation of a space in which the intended outcomes can be achieved and the purpose of the organization served.
  • In Teal organizations the combination of worthwhile purpose, self-direction and collaboration contributes to elevated mood.
  • There is no HR function charged with 'mood management'. It is up to individuals and groups to develop practices that enable them to work harmoniously.
  • These practices may depart - sometimes radically - from traditional organizations. New recruits may find this difficult at first.
  • The best practices tend to be adopted across the organization.

In Practice

The way mood management works

Teal organizations recognize that mood mediates what is possible; that it predisposes certain courses of action, and closes off others. In self-managed organizations people value both autonomy and collaboration in pursuit of purpose. The practice of shared processes supports this. Purpose and practice conspire to produce a sense of shared belonging, alignment and potency. This sense of potency supports innovation. People have ideas, seek support from colleagues and, when they work, share the enjoyment of their wider acceptance. These successes give rise to stories and practices. These, combined with 'wholeness events' are two contributors to the mood in the organization.

Both may be used within hierarchical systems, too: they don’t depend on self-managing structures. But in Teal organizations they are more likely to arise from the inspiration of its members and their shared values. They may arise naturally, find their place, become openly adopted, and treasured.


The stories people tell themselves and others reflect and reinforce mood. They convey memorable instances of shared values at work. What mood do we wish to share, and celebrate? Playfulness? Concentration? Prudence? Joy? Pride? Care? Gratitude? Curiosity? Determination? If we are self-managed, this selection is likely to be different for different people.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful moods. We are satisfied. We drop our search for more. In this moment, we feel fulfilled. From that fullness, other emotions naturally emerge. We experience joy and generosity; we treat others with care. To nurture this consciously we need to discover and/or design practices that evoke gratitude, or related moods.

We can ask: What stories can we share that evoke the mood that serves us best? In this fashion, Teal organizations may create storytelling practices that support and expand the mood of appreciation while strengthening trust among the members.

Storytelling practices take many forms:

  • Starting meetings with each participant in turn sharing a brief story of someone they had recently thanked or congratulated. (FAVI)
  • Coming back to work from a day off (which included the task of expressing gratitude to somebody important in one's life), and sharing the experience with colleagues. (Ozvision)
  • The Friday afternoon “praise meeting” in a school: sharing stories of kindness, courage, care, or professionalism as key to the school’s exceptional learning culture. (ESBZ)
  • The “Good Stuff Friday” e-mail: Started by one of the colleagues and sent to the entire workforce thanking a colleague or department for something that happened that week, or simply to share some good news. It invariably triggers an avalanche of recognition. (BerylHealth)
Wholeness Events

Moods are also created by shared experiences: especially if they are filled with laughter, joy, fun, creativity, a feeling of trust, authenticity, belonging, acceptance and recognition.

Traditional organizations may sponsor events, too - typically by HR or the CEO, for team building or similar. However, in a Teal organization they usually emerge out of the organization itself. When people feel safe enough to take the initiative, it seems that these self-created and organized events emerge spontaneously. We long, deep inside, to be in all of our humanity: the funny and the quirky, as well as the serious and responsible. Human connections emerge from these places.

Wholeness Events can be all kinds of things, like:

  • The self-organized “Art Salon” where everyone is invited to share an artistic passion. Some display photographs and paintings. Others perform (songs, dances, juggling ...), and so on. If people really enjoy themselves, these can become regular institutions. (Sounds True)
  • Fun at breakfast by showing up in pajamas to celebrate spring: so much fun was had at the premiere of this that now 90% of staff join in the annual self-organized “Pajama Day”. It is a celebration of community, fun, and getting to know colleagues in a completely different way. (Sounds True)

Frequently Asked Questions

We certainly need money to thrive in a business. Should the questions be: What else do we need? Does this get in the way of, or support, financial health?

Many (especially younger employees) are disillusioned with what they perceive as an excessive focus on money; especially when it manifests as greed. The result is a widespread disengagement evident in surveys by Gallup and others.

A motivating work environment fosters financial success. Teal organizations offer this via more autonomy and more community in pursuit of worthwhile purpose. These are clear motivators. They elevate 'mood'; they foster engagement; which in turn can correlate with financial health.

'To deal with' infers 'to manage by others'. In some styles of organization this has been via programs initiated by senior management or HR.

In Teal organizations the practices that support elevated mood are often initiated by members and have optional participation. If staff can 'manage' their own practices, then the risk of being 'too personal' diminishes. It is fair to say, however, that new staff--especially senior ones--can find the move to a mood-sensitive organization difficult. This is a choice to be explored carefully during joining discussions.

If 'mood' determines the choices open to individuals, groups and organizations, it still ranks as an important consideration.

Concrete cases for inspiration

At BerylHealth an e-mail sent to the whole workforce recognizing and thanking someone encourages others to follow and creates the so-called “Good Stuff Friday” for everyone.

BerylHealth has come up with a variation of the ESBZ's practice. But instead of gathering together, a mass email chain always erupts at some point on Friday afternoon. (Hence the name the practice has taken: “Good Stuff Friday”.).

One colleague sends an email to the entire workforce recognizing and thanking another colleague or department for something that happened that week, or simply to share some good news.

The first email invariably triggers a whole avalanche of thanking and recognition. This practice builds community and closes the week in a spirit of appreciation and gratitude.

ESBZ has an extraordinary trust and community-building practice based around storytelling: the Friday afternoon “praise meeting” which fosters a mood of gratitude.

Each Friday afternoon, the entire school―students, teachers, and staff―gathers for an hour in a large hall. They start by singing a song together. The rest of the time together is unscripted. There is an open microphone on stage, and a simple rule: we are here to praise and thank each other.

For the next 50 minutes, students and teachers who wish to do so stand up, walk on stage, take the microphone, and praise or thank another student or teacher for something they did or said during the week. They then sit down and someone else takes the stage. Every person at the microphone shares a mini-story that reveals something about two people―the storyteller and the person being thanked.

This practice erases boundaries between students and teachers. It’s part of the human condition that everyone at some point feels down, confused, or stuck and in need of help. And everyone has the gift of empathy, of finding ways to offer support, comfort, and friendship. It takes courage to stand up and praise others publicly, but in the school it has become practice.

Students don’t shy away from stories that are funny or touching, and heartfelt. Students and teachers credit this weekly session as the defining practice for the school’s extraordinary spirit of learning, collaboration, and maturity. Each story of kindness, courage, care, or professionalism told at the microphone is a thread woven into a rich tapestry of gratitude that has become key to the school’s exceptional learning culture. Faculty meetings have now integrated the same practice: they always start with a round of praise.

This internet company has experimented a lot with innovative approaches on mood management. Two such practices involve story-telling.

In the first, teams gather each morning for a quick meeting called “good or new”. It's a kind of check-in for the day. A doll is passed round, like a talking stick, and whoever has it shares either something new (news from work, the press, or their private lives), or something good (simply a story they want their colleagues to know about, work-related or not).

Thus each day starts with a brief, joyful moment: a sort of ritual that says, “Let’s acknowledge that we are all here, as colleagues and as human beings.”

The second story-telling practice is based on the right of everyone to take an extra day off each year. It's called a "day of thanking". The employee gets $200 from company funds to spend in any way she wants, as long as it is to thank someone special. It might be a colleague, parent, friend, neighbor, or long-lost but not-forgotten school teacher. The only rule is that once she returns to work, she must share the story of what she gave and to whom and how the gift was received.

At Ozvision, with 40 employees, colleagues there hear three or four such stories every month. These are often deeply personal stories where colleagues are willing to share three steps in their experience―when the seed for gratitude was planted, how the person was thanked, and how their gift was received.

At Sounds True members of the organization came up with two ideas for Wholeness Events. These promote a mood of fun, trust, wholeness and excitement. The events called “Art Salon” and “Pajama Day”. They have become annual events.

Five years ago, a colleague at Sounds True took it upon herself to organize an “Art Salon” on a Friday afternoon. Everyone was invited to share an artistic passion with his or her colleagues. Walls throughout the office were filled with photographs and paintings.

A small stage was erected for performance. Some chose to sing (some songs about life in the company were particular hits), others juggled or danced. It was so popular that the salon became an annual event. Tami Simon, the company founder, wasn’t involved in setting up the first salon, but she sees that it has become an important element in the company culture: "I realized these events are saying to people, “You get to be a whole person. This part of you, it may not fit to do it as part of your job every day. … But the fact that you can now juggle five balls is actually cool. And one Friday afternoon, we want to sit back and have a glass of wine and watch you do this and acknowledge this part of you.”

For reasons by now half-forgotten, someone suggested "Pajama Day" as a celebration of the arrival of spring. Everyone who wanted to join would share breakfast at the office … in pajamas. The handful that showed up had so much fun during breakfast that they decided to keep their pajamas on at work the rest of the day.

Since then, the event has taken place every year. Now 90 percent of the employees show up in pajamas, and a prize is given for the best outfit. (A matching set of pajamas for master and dog shared the prize once.)

It has become an event people look forward to and prepare for. In its own quirky way, “Pajama Day” is a storytelling event―every pair of pajamas represents a story waiting to say something about the person wearing them: What made you choose that outfit?

Wearing a professional mask at work is decidedly more difficult when everyone strolls around in funny sleepwear.

FAVI had a beautiful practice of gratitude and celebration: every meeting in the company started with a round where each participant in turn shared a brief story of someone they had recently thanked or congratulated.

This powerful practice start of the meeting at FAVI had a telling effect on meetings: it nourished moods of possibility, gratitude, celebration, and trust. Focusing on others and their accomplishments shifts focus away from the personal preoccupations members might have brought to the meeting. After a few years, this practice started feeling staid to people at FAVI, and was dropped. It might show up again, perhaps in another form. Such practices evolve. They should feel fresh and meaningful, not formal and fixed.

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    Notes and references