Start the Day Off Right!
post # 149 — August 3, 2006 — a Careers, Managing post
There’s a fascinating (and possibly very important) study conducted by Nancy Rothbard (a Wharton professor) and Steffanie Wilk (an Ohio State professor) on call-center employees. It’s called Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Desk: The Effect of Mood on Work Performance.
They report that the mood you bring with you to work has a stronger effect on work performance than mood changes caused by events in the workplace.
Think about that – if you come to work already in an optimistic or upbeat mood (because of things that have nothing to do with work), you are more likely to be productive, efficient and do better quality work.
This matches my life – if I start out right, I get a huge amount done; but if I start out grumpy I almost never turn it around. The start-of-day mood is disproportionately influential.
It also matches a phenomenon I wrote about 21 years ago in an article called The Psychology of Waiting Lines, where I offered a lesson learned by every waiter and waitress: – Its hard to play catch-up ball. If the customers sit down happy in a restaurant (or diner) it’s not too hard to keep them happy, but if they sit down disgruntled, there’s almost nothing you can do to please them – they are loaded for bear!
There are lessons here for self-management, and also for companies or managers trying to help employees become productive. As the authors point out, people rarely receive training from their employers in the problems they have in their personal lives, yet the moods they develop as a result of these problems may be (may be? – ARE!) a major determinant of employee performance.
So what does THAT say a manager has to be good at? Helping employees deal with personal problems, so that they come to work in a positive frame of mind?
There’s no escaping the fact that the pragmatic conclusion is yes – even though many of us would love to believe it’s not our place to get involved in employees’ personal problems. Ignore this at your peril!
And what about us as individuals? Should each of us develop “start of the day” devices (uniquely tailored for what works for us as individuals) to start the day off right? Some might go for a run, some might meditate, some might just play the following Bee Gees song sequence: “In the Morning” “Words” “Melody Fair.” “Islands in the Stream (Kenny and Dolly version)”( I said it had to be individual, right?)
Seriously, there are two questions for you to respond to: Do you have a personal device or approach to set up the day, and (b) what do you think managers can/ should do to help employees / team-members do so?
Bill Peper said:
Thanks for the great link.
My morning ritual involves prayer and searching the Internet for 3-5 links that will help my clients and teammates perform better. This service is value added, and it starts my day by serving others—a great habit to develop. (I also benefit from the Internet search as well.)
As I spend a good amount of time each day driving, I also use music to start my day. I listen to my two favorite songs, both composed by the brilliant American composer John Bucchino—“Grateful” sung by Michael Feinstein and “Taking The Wheel” sung by Brian Lane Green—usually several times. “Grateful” is simply beautiful and expresses a a great message, while “Taking the Wheel” fires me up and raises my energy level.
As an observation, one’s early morning mood reflects his/her general disposition. Developing an inner attitude of gratefullness, selflessness, and an appreciation for the opportunities the day will present require a conscious effort. Once that mental habit is established, life becomes much richer.
As to your second question, the greatest way to influence a direct report is to care genuinely about his/her well being and demonstrate that concern. Psychologists say that people’s greatest need is to be appreciated, and truly noticing the person involved is the best way to convey concern.
I typically ask, “You don’t seem quite yourself today, is everything OK?” Those so inclined will disclose private information, while others will not. Employees appreciate the opportunity to disclose private information, even if the opportunity is not taken.
Another thing a manager must do is allow an employee to have occasional “bad hair days.” As a human being, no one bring his/her “A” game every day—at least not over the long haul. One of the difficult tasks of a manager is providing some slack for employees on occasion, but not allowing the situation to become an excuse for poor performance over time.
posted on August 3, 2006