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Corporate Wellness
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The power of mood on staff motivation

Research has shown that the mood people bring with them to the workplace at the start of each day, “waking up on the right or wrong side of the bed” influences worker mood throughout the day more powerfully and consistently than any other variable (1). This is not surprising since the boundary between our work and non-work roles is permeable (2). Our mood at the beginning of the day may come from challenges and opportunities we are presented with, positive or negative family experiences before leaving for work, or even the commute into work.

Employees are rarely able to check their emotions at the door, nor are they emotional islands while at work. Whereas start-of-day mood might lead to greater “stickiness” in work mood later in the day, ongoing work interactions can be an important source of positive or negative fluctuations in work mood throughout the day (3). In short, our interactions with others might influence our work mood during the day through the emotional state and mood of others (4).

Consequently, staff with low mood could potentially de-motivate their colleagues by their attitude and lead to underperformance. Conversely, staff with positive mood could help optimise work performance among co-workers. Thus, the emotions we experience at the start of the day and the emotional state of those we interact with at work can consequently have a profound effect on how we feel and ultimately perform at work.

The effect of mood on work performance-why it matters

Research has found that negative mood can reduce performance outcome; for example, in customer service work settings, it has been shown to reduce the turnover of calls per hour (5). Workers in a negative mood also need to expend effort to conceal their mood to co-workers and customers (6) which uses up valuable mental and physical resources (7) and could lead to underperformance at work.

On the other hand, positive mood can help employees obtain favourable outcomes at work (8). In particular, research has shown that feeling and expressing positive emotions on the job have favourable consequences on a) employees themselves, independent of their relationships with others (e.g. by employees demonstrating greater persistence) b) reactions of others to employees (e.g. by over-generalisation to other desirable traits which positive thinking empl0yees may display) and c) reactions of employees to others (e.g. helping others) (9). Positive mood is also associated with evidence of work achievement (e.g. more favourable supervisor evaluations and higher pay) and a supportive social context (e.g. more support from supervisors and co-workers) (10).

Positive mood also appears to widen the array of thoughts and actions that are recalled, induces greater cognitive flexibility (11), better integration of diverse material (12), and more creative thinking at work (13). It also helps people interpret events more positively (14). Thus, a more positive start-of-day mood might lead workers to interpret on-going daily events at work more positively, also thereby potentially increasing their subsequent positive mood during the workday. Thus, it is evident that a positive mood can have a wide-reaching and profound effect on staff work achievement and performance.

References

(1) Edwards JR & Rothbard NP (2000) Mechanisms linking work and family: Clarifying the relationship between work and family constructs. Academy of Management Review 25 178-199
(2) Edwards JR & Rothbard NP (2000) Mechanisms linking work and family: Clarifying the relationship between work and family constructs. Academy of Management Review 25 178-199
(3) Edwards JR & Rothbard NP (2000) Mechanisms linking work and family: Clarifying the relationship between work and family constructs. Academy of Management Review 25 178-199
(4) Pugh S D (2001) Service with a smile: Emotional contagion in the service encounter. Academy of Management Journal 44 1018-1027
(5) Rothbard NP & Wilk SL (2011) Waking Up on the Right or Wrong Side of the Bed: Start-of-workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, and Performance 54 5
(6) Grandey A A (2003) When “the show must go on”: Surface acting and deep acting as determinants of emotional exhaustion and peer-rated service delivery. Academy of Management Journal 46 86-96
(7) Baumeister RF Bratslavsky E Muraven M Tice D M (1998) Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74 1252-1265
(8) Staw BM Sutton R I Pelled L H (1994) Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace. Organization Science 5 51-71
(9) Staw BM Sutton R I Pelled L H (1994) Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace. Organization Science 5 51-71
(10) Staw BM Sutton R I Pelled L H (1994) Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace. Organization Science 5 51-71
(11) Fredrickson B L (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist 56 218-226
(12) Isen A M Rosenzweig A S Young M J (1991) The influence of positive affect on clinical problem solving. Medical Decision Making 11 221-227
(13) Amabile TM Barsade SG Mueller JS Staw BM (2005) Affect and creativity at work. Administrative Science Quarterly 50 367-403
(14) Carlson M Charlin V& Miller N (1988) Positive mood and helping behavior: A test of six hypotheses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 55 211-229

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