Getting out of bed on the wrong side

Most of us have the occasional bad day at work, where any number of irritants from the horrible journey in to the situation at home has affected your performance.

by Knowledge@Wharton
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Compartmentalising one's life from one's work is not always possible – there is a spillover. Perhaps surprisingly, given growing attention to work-life balance and the economics of happiness, very few studies have actually looked at the effect of mood on performance at work.

Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk of the Fisher School of Business looked at what mood-altering events had most effect on the productivity of call centre employees at an insurance company.

The study found that the mood someone brings to work with them is more potent than mood-changing events at work.

The findings might suggest that employers could enhance business performance by helping employees cope with mood-affecting influences in their private lives, although it is questionable how employees would feel about this intrusion.

The study sought to filter out the underlying mood of the call centre employees who took part through a questionnaire to establish their tendency to be happy, sad etc. Then they looked for mood changes during the working day. This was measured against performance metrics used by the employer to detect correlation between mood changes and performance.

The correlation with start-of-day mood and mood during the day was strong, whether negative (0.38 out of maximum correlation of 1) or positive (0.36).

The survey partially supported the hypothesis that workers perform better when they are happy. The findings also show that the events that affected the workers' mood outside work were on average more important to them than customer interactions.

Walking in the Door: Sources and Consequences of Employee Mood on Work Performance
Nancy Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk
Knowledge@Wharton July 2006

Review by Joe Gill

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