Group affective tone

Group affective tone represents the consistent or homogeneous affective reactions within a group5,6. Group affective tone is an aggregate of the moods of the individual members of the group and refers to mood at the group level of analysis. If the moods of the individual group members are consistent, then group affective tone can be treated as a group property. If, for example, members of a group tend to be excited, energetic and enthusiastic, then the group itself can be described as being excited, energetic and enthusiastic. If the group members tend to be distressed, mistrustful and nervous, then the group can also be described in these terms.Not all groups possess an affective tone; members of some groups do not experience similar moods. Even so, past research indicates that a majority of groups possess an affective tone6.

Two dimensions of group affective tone have been identified: positive affective tone and negative affective tone5,6. Research shows that the two dimensions of affect emerge as independent factors16,22 and display independent patterns of relationships with other variables2,20,21.

Group members tend to experience similar moods based on several theoretical mechanisms, including the selection and composition of group members, the socialization of group members, and exposure of group members to the same affective events, such as task demands and outcomes6,23.

Moods tend to be shared among group members through processes such as mood contagion15 and impression management14. Group affective tone is associated with various organizational outcomes such as group prosocial behavior6,14.

George’s (1990)5 demonstration that characteristic levels of the personality traits of PA and NA, within work groups, are positively associated with their corresponding (positive and negative) affective tones. Group affective tone is influenced by characteristic levels of personality traits within groups. These characteristic levels of personality have been theorized to be brought about by member similarity resulting from attraction-selection-attrition processes described by Schneider18 (1987). Beyond personality, a number of other factors have been posited to explain why work group members tend to share moods and emotions1,6,7, for example, (a) common socialization experiences and common social influences8; (b) similarity of tasks and high task interdependence4,9; (c) membership stability; (d) mood regulation norms and rules19; and (d) emotional contagion17.

George believes that a group’s affective tone will determine how innovative (and effective) the group will be. An evidence to this belief is that when individuals feel positive they tend to connect and integrate divergent stimulus materials—they are more creative3,10-13.George suggests that if all or most individuals in a work group tend to feel positive at work (the group has a "high positive affective tone"), then their cognitive flexibility will be amplified as a result of social influence and other group processes. As a result of these individual and group level processes, the group will develop shared (and flexible) mental models. In effect, groups with a high positive affective tone will be creative.

Analyses suggested that positive group affective tone fully mediated, and negative group affective tone partially mediated, the association between leader mood and group coordination. Successful leaders must efficiently regulate the affective tones of their groups. Leaders who are effective at managing the group’s affective tone should have more impact on group processes than will their counterparts.



1. Bartel CA, Saavedra R. 2000. The collective construction of work group moods. Administrative Science Qoeterly 45(2):197–231

2. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being: happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 668–678.

3. Cummings, A. (1998). Contextual characteristics and employee creativity: Affect at work. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Conference, Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology. Dallas, USA, April.

4. Gallupe RB, Bastionatti LM, Cooper WH. 1991. Unblocking brainstorms. J. Appl. Psychol. 76(1):137–42

5. George, J. M. (1990). Personality, affect, and behavior in groups. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 107–116.

6. George, J.M. (1996). Group affective tone. In M. A. West (Ed.), Handbook of work group psychology (pp. 77–93). Chichester, UK: Wiley.

7. George JM, Brief AP. 1992. Feeling good doing good: a conceptual analysis of the mood at work-organizational spontaneity relationship. Psychological Bulletin. 112(2):310–29

8. Hackman JR. 1992. Group influences on individuals in organizations. In Handbook of I/O Psychology, ed. MD Dunnette, LM Hough, 3:199–267. Palo Alto, CA: Consult. Psychol. Press. 1095 pp.

9. Heath C, Jourden FJ. 1997. Illusion, disillusion, and the buffering effect of groups. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 69(2):103–16

10. Isen, A.M., & Daubman, K.A. (1984). The influence of affect on categorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1206–1217.

11. Isen, A.M., Daubman, K.A., & Nowicki, G.P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.

12. Isen, A.M., & Daubman, K.A. (1984). The influence of affect on categorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1206–1217.

13. Isen, A.M., Daubman, K.A., & Nowicki, G.P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.

14. Kelly, J. R., & Barsade, S. G. (2001). Moods and emotions in small groups and work groups. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86, 99–130.

15. Neumann, R., & Strack, F. (2000). “Mood contagion”: The automatic transfer of mood between persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 211–223.

16. Organ, D. W., & Near, J. P. (1985). Cognition vs affect in measures of job satisfaction. International Journal of Psychology, 20, 241–253.

17. Pugh, S. Douglas (2001). Service with a Smile: Emotional Contagion in the Service Encounter. Academy of Management Journal, 44 (5), 1018-27.

18. Schneider B. 1987. The people make the place. Pers. Psychol. 40(3):437–53

19. Sutton RI. 1991. Maintaining norms about expressed emotions: the case of bill collectors. Administrative Science Quarterly 36(2):245–68

20. Warr, P. B., Barter, J., & Brownbridge, G. (1983). On the independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 644–651.

21. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: the disposition to experience aversive emotional states. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465–490.

22. Watson, D., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 219–235.

23. Weiss, H. M., & Cropanzano, R. (1996). Affective events theory: A theoretical discussion of the causes and consequences of affective experiences at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 18, 1–74.

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