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Grow Your Business Your Team

Employee Mood Impacts Bottom Line

You already knew that unhappy employees are bad for business, but did you know they are actually costing you money?

New research finds that employees who report to work in a bad mood do less work and lower quality work than those who come in happy. The good news is that you can do something about it.

The research found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. While this might seem like common sense, the research went further and determined that employee mood had a direct impact on how customers were treated.

“We saw that employees could get into these negative spirals where they started the day in a bad mood and just got worse over the course of the day,” said Steffanie Wilk, associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, who conducted the research.

“That’s why it is so important for companies to find ways to help their workers start off the day on the right foot.”

The research has clear implications for managers: do everything you can to help your employees start the day in a good mood, the researchers said.

“We’ve all heard of companies that start the day with calisthenics or some team-building exercise . Many of us laugh at that, but there may be something to it,” co-researcher Wilk said.

On the other hand, Wilk said she has worked with companies that will dock pay or give a demerit to employees who are even one minute late.

“So if you’ve had a rough commute and you have to rush to your desk, and you know you’re going to be in trouble, that’s not a good way to start your workday. Once an employee starts that way, it could have negative consequences for the company the whole day.”

Wilk offered a few suggestions on what employers can do to improve employee mood.

  • Rethink how their punitive policies might influence the performance of employees — not just those who do not conform to those policies (and are then punished) but even those who appear to conform to them.
  • Try exercise — it's one tactic that some employers use to get positive endorphins in their employees. 
  • Starting the day with a supervisor-run team meeting that focuses on positives can build up the workers to face their day.
  • Supervisors can give employees who don't seem to be at their best that morning a task that gives them confidence and improves their outlook before having them begin work on tasks that are potentially more depleting or challenging.

Wilk conducted the research with Nancy Rothbard of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Their results appear online in the Academy of Management Journal and will be published in a future print edition.