This morning I started a focus group with a group of employees that looked unhappier than the average worker on Monday morning when the weather is nice outside. All but one employee had the facial expression and body language of people that would rather be anywhere than discussing how the performance of their organization could improve. After introductions and discussions of the weather, we turned to the state of the organization and employee morale. One senior manager made the comment that she really does not know how she musters the strength to come back to the job every day. She discussed how as her day progresses she is increasingly convinced that she should leave at the end of the day and not return. She mentioned how before she goes home she just sits and contemplates writing her resignation letter. However, something truly amazing happens overnight: she feels better about her job at the beginning of the new day and returns.
More than likely, most of us have experienced this renewal at one point or another. Almost ten years ago, research conducted by Timothy Judge at University of Florida found that employee moods can literally change overnight (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041203084136.htm). According to this research, talking about your day with friends or family and a good night’s sleep play a key role in employee satisfaction as well as moods. In order to reduce the potential reduction in productivity from bad moods, it is important to ensure that employees have the time to renew. Research conducted in 2011 by Nancy Rothbard describes the cost to productivity of those employees that come to work without this renewal or those that arrive at work in a bad mood (http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/healthscience/behavioral-health/item/16611-bad-mood-affects-work-performance). In her study with a large call center, the number of calls answered and how well issues were dealt with diminished considerably when employees were in a bad mood at the start of the day.
So, how can we improve the mood of others?
- Start the day well
- Address issues
- Increase challenges
Start Day Well
Research clearly indicates that an employee that starts their day in a good mood is going to be more productive. Even if yesterday was a bad day, it is important that the past be left behind. Organizations have adopted a number of strategies to accomplish this from team activities, joint exercising, and reasonable work-life balance initiatives. Most people begin their day with the stress of children, traffic, and other obligations, while breaking the routine even for a few minutes upon arrival at work can be very beneficial to the productivity of the individual and the team.
It is only human to procrastinate over those things that we do not want to deal with right now. It can be as simple as giving someone bad news, reconciling with a coworker, finishing a report, or meeting with your boss. As leaders, part of our responsibility and our own effectiveness relates to how well we can assist employees in this situation. It is important that we advise employees to deal with those things that are impacting their moods. As part of the resolution process, it may require listening to the issue. This is an important part of letting something go for most people and is a relatively easy role for us to play.
People enjoy a challenge and it is common for someone’s mood to improve when there is a sense of purpose. Although it might seem counter-intuitive to give someone a new assignment when he or she is having a bad day, the new challenge can change their perspective in a positive way. As human beings, we seek fulfillment from what we do. We want to feel that we have an important role and what we do makes a difference in some manner.