Whistling While We Work: Why Good Moods Improve Job Performance
As even Snow White knew, good moods in the workplace are to be encouraged. It is not news, either to Walt Disney or to organizational psychologists, that positive moods not only feel good, but also improve task performance. What is not fully understood is why that is so. Why is it that positive mood generally improves performance? Tsai, Chen, and Lieu think that it is a combination of factors both intrapersonal (motivational) and interpersonal (giving help to and receiving help from co-workers) that provide the key link.
"In addition to its relationship with coworker helping and support via helping other coworkers, positive mood was directly associated with coworker helping and support." In other words, a good mood not only makes you more helpful and therefore more likely to attract help, but your very mood attracts help. Additionally, "positive moods can be contagious," also increasing the likelihood your coworkers will help you do your task successfully.
These interpersonal factors are not the only link, however. Employees with positive moods "may perform better through higher self-efficacy and task persistence." If we're cheerful, we're more likely to think we can do our job well, and are more likely to see the job through to a successful conclusion.
So, from the manager's perspective, what's the take-away? "Managers who hope to increase employee task performance could take actions to enhance employee positive moods [such as] making employees understand that the result of their work may have a significant effect on the well-being of other people [or] demonstrate charismatic or transformational leadership behaviors to create a positive affective tone in groups through the process of emotional contagion between leaders and group members." In short, if you're a manager, do what you can to cheer them up and letting them see the broader impact of their work in the world.
Again, we see the infiltration of integral thinking into organizational behavior -- the linkage between the intrapersonal (individual motivational factors) and the social (interpersonal dynamics), and between the interior (moods, individual and shared) and the exterior (behavior) is increasingly significant to researchers.
(From Tsai, W, Chen, C., and Liu, H., (2007). Test of a model linking employee positive moods and task performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(6), 1570-1583.)