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Positive Emotions in the Workplace: How They Affect Employee Performance

2022-06-27
Positive Emotions in the Workplace: How They Affect Employee Performance

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that positive emotions lead to enhanced employee performance and job satisfaction. Vice versa, negative emotions can hinder productivity and employee engagement.

Employees who report experiencing more positive emotions at work are more likely to receive higher performance reviews from their supervisors, persevere in the face of workplace adversity, and are more creative in their problem-solving. Given the clear link between positive emotions and employee productivity, it is important for businesses to understand how positive emotions help enhance employee well being.

Why Should We Care about Emotions in the Workplace?

Emotions are part of who we are as human beings, and they play a role in every aspect of our lives. The workplace is no exception. In fact, positive emotions can have a profound impact on our performance at work. When we feel happy and supported, we are more productive and engaged. Conversely, a negative emotional experience can cause our work to suffer. Therefore, it is essential that we create a workplace environment that is conducive to positive employee emotions.

Creating a positive emotional climate in the workplace can have a positive effect on productivity, boost morale, and build a strong sense of community and well being. Ultimately, caring about emotions in the workplace is good for business.

Benefits of Positive Emotions in the Workplace

A growing body of research suggests that positive emotional experiences can have a positive effect on our overall well being, both at work and at home. Broaden and build theory in positive psychology suggests that positive emotions broaden individuals' creativity and problem-solving abilities. By promoting positive emotions, businesses can create a more productive and enjoyable work environment while also reducing the risk of costly absenteeism and turnover. Here are some benefits of positive emotions in the workplace:

  • Improved job satisfaction and motivation. Positive emotions may help us to see our work in a more positive light, making us more likely to find meaning and purpose in what we do. In turn, this can lead to higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction and motivation. Negative emotions, on the other hand, can hinder organizational success, by making employees less motivated.
  • Increased creativity and productivity. Workers who experience positive emotions are more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems and to persist in the face of obstacles. Positive emotions broaden employees' thinking, making them more open to new ideas and possibilities. They also increase employee engagement, their level of motivation, and help them to put more effort into their work.
  • Reduced stress, enhanced physical health and mental well being. Positive emotions may help to protect against stress by buffering the negative feelings about job demands. It has health benefits too - feeling happy, supported and engaged can also help to offset the harmful effects of a negative emotional experience on the body. Workers who experience positive emotions at work report having better physical well being - better quality sleep and feeling less fatigued during the day than those who don't.
  • Fostered teamwork, collaboration, and social cohesion. Feeling content at work makes it more likely that people will approach and interact with others. Having positive emotions, such as feeling valued, may have a positive impact on giving and receiving feedback. It can encourage people to see the best in others and to be more forgiving. It can also help people feel more connected to others and give the team a more positive affect, which can lead to higher employee engagement, stronger social relationships, increased cooperation and a sense of belonging.
  • Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. Satisfied employees are more likely to provide better quality service because they feel appreciated and valued by their employers. Positive emotional experiences may lead to employees being more motivated to do their best work. This can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction, as well as increased profitability for the company. 

Examples of Positive Emotions in the Workplace

Feeling valued

One thing that can make us feel unvalued is when people don't give us recognition for our work. For example, if an employee does a great job on a project but their manager doesn’t even mention it in passing—that might bother some employees enough to reduce the impact on their performance at home and school.

While there are many forms of esteem out here – including monetary payments like bonuses – the most powerful form comes from having validating interpersonal relationships. People often hold a strong sense of relational fairness - it stands for how we are being treated in comparison to others. If we perceive others being treated better, it's harder for us to feel valued.

Employees desire to be acknowledged for their individual contributions, therefore, managers and HR professionals may offer peer recognition schemes where they can focus deeper on rewarding individual qualities, strengths and efforts of their employees. Feeling heard and appreciated for their authentic contributions can lead to employees having higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation.

Happiness

Happiness is a state of being that is positive and pleasant. It includes feeling satisfied, content, and fulfilled. While happiness is unique to each individual, there are some common factors that contribute to it. Workplace happiness comes when employees enjoy doing the tasks that are assigned to them, when they get along with co-workers, when financial benefits satisfy them, and when they have the scope of improving their skills.

Research shows that workers who feel happy in their workplace, have 65% more energy than those who don't. They are also two times more productive and more likely to remain in the same job for longer periods of time.

Employees don't always have to wait for team leaders to reward them - self-reward can increase work engagement and persistence. Managers can generate positive emotions by providing developmental support such as training and career mentoring so that employees are aware of different job positions or career paths in the organizations. Finally, making employees a part of the bigger picture by helping them guide the course of the company can keep employees happy, more creative and productive.

Camaraderie

Camaraderie is a feeling individuals get from being part of something bigger than themselves. It's like seeing co-workers as unique individuals with interests and lives outside of work. Camaraderie is about being a tight-knit group, where everyone helps each other achieve personal goals and succeed at work too - it doesn't matter if one person makes more money or has higher authority because employees are there to support each other equally as members in good standing.

Since camaraderie is connected to countless benefits, such as more positive workplace culture, higher morale and more positive emotions, leaders are highly encouraged to foster it in the workplace.

In addition to organizing after-work activities and team-building exercises, managers should take time to have friendly conversations with their staff during breaks - such a positive working environment can eventually lead to creative discussions that can help the company thrive.

Some things managers can consider are training staff on people management skills - listening and providing constructive feedback. Transformational leadership is about keeping conflicts and arguments to the minimum to avoid internal competition and strengthen team performance. Finally, create efficient onboarding processes where new employees could smoothly acquire necessary skills and feel welcome in the organization.

Excitement

One of the most common positive emotions is excitement. Excitement at work is a feeling of mental stimulation and heightened joy in relation to the company's goals or the person's individual role.

When we feel excitement, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine. This dopamine reward system is what helps us feel pleasure and motivation. In fact, the anticipation of an exciting event can often be more pleasurable than the event itself. This is because dopamine not only makes us feel good in the moment, but it also helps us learn and remember the things that led to that feeling.

Managers can create an exciting work atmosphere by keeping employees engaged with positive experiences and interesting work. Employees who are given assignments that they find interesting and challenging are more likely to be experiencing positive emotions. Leaders should make sure to assign their team members projects that they will find both stimulating and enjoyable. By anticipating reaching work goals, employees will stay excited and engaged.

Engagement

Employee engagement has been a buzzword in the business world for several years now, but what does it actually mean?

Engagement at work can be defined as an intense focus and connection to the tasks at hand. This could be due, in part or wholehearted agreement with the company's values that are propounded by their employees. Simply put, employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm and commitment that employees feel towards their work. Employee engagement means having employees that are more likely to be productive and motivated, and they also tend to have lower turnover rates.

There are many ways to increase employee engagement, but some of the most effective include getting the right people in suitable roles and providing proper training and development. This will lead to more clarity and more positive emotional experiences.

In addition, as a manager, checking with your employees regularly will lead to faster correction of mistakes - try using both formal and informal check-in strategies and do it often.

Finally, asking employees about their levels of engagement and involving them in a discussion can lead to a more positive emotions experienced and higher employee well being.

Belonging

An important positive emotion is belonging. Feeling connected is a human need, like the need for food and shelter. It is the feeling that we are an accepted member of a group, whether it’s a family, a friendship group, or a wider community.

Positive psychology suggests a sense of belonging gives us a feeling of security and safety and more health benefits. It also helps to build supportive relationships with co-workers, which can improve both job satisfaction and overall well being. Furthermore, a sense of belonging at work can make it easier to deal with stress and setbacks, as employees will have a built-in support system to fall back on.

Managers, peers and seniors alike can foster a sense of belonging for their colleagues by respecting their commitments outside of work, expressing gratitude for their work, empowering others to make decisions and connecting to colleagues on a personal level. Potential outcomes of this can be increased employee job satisfaction, more positive workplace culture and employees who feel seen, connected, supportive, and proud.

Confidence

Confidence is an important positive emotion - any successful career depends on confidence. Merriam-Webster defines confidence as “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances.” When it comes to work, confidence is manifested in many ways, from the way workers carry themselves during meetings to the way they interact with their colleagues. Feeling confident positively affects productivity and can minimize negative emotions.

Confidence at work often starts with mindset. According to positive psychology, if employees believe that they are capable and competent, then they are more likely to exude confidence in their daily tasks. This inner belief can be cultivated by encouraging employees through positive praise and setting realistic goals.

It is important for workers to have a support system at work, whether it is a mentor, coach, or friend. These individuals can help them build confidence by providing honest feedback and encouragement. Increased confidence will lead to positive outcomes, such as higher job satisfaction, better psychological health, healthier workplace culture and higher employee engagement.

Pride

An important positive emotion is pride. Positive psychology suggests that pride at work is about more than just getting the job done. It's about feeling good about what you do and taking pride in your accomplishments. When employees have pride in their work, they are motivated to achieve the best results. Pride also comes from feeling of being a part of something larger and having purpose.

As a leader, it's important to communicate to the employees how their work contributes to the success of the business. Transformational leadership is about demonstrating how an organization's products or services are relevant, by telling a story about them - it could be creating videos of customers using products or sharing a story about how the business has started - when the employees feel emotionally connected to the work, their sense of pride will increase.

Flow

What is the state of flow? Flow is a positive emotion or a mental state that was first studied by Dr. Csíkszentmihályi. He studied successful professionals, such as Nobel prize winners, about their optimal performance habits. They described it as feeling like their whole self entered into an intense, focused absorptive mode. They lost track of time and space while immersed in what they were doing.

Positive psychology suggests that managers can help their employees enter the state of flow, by balancing high challenges with adequate personal skills and setting clear goals that match company values. Employees should avoid multitasking, as research suggests that frequently changing tasks costs workers 40% of their job performance. Leaders could also sign up their staff to corporate wellness programs, as the state of flow is connected to feeling relaxed.

How Does a Manager Create a Positive Work Environment?

The broaden and build theory in psychology suggests that experiencing positive emotions broadens peoples' awareness and causes innovative thinking and acting. These resources build up over time and increase individuals' well being. So how can organizational behavior use positive emotions to achieve organizational success and keep employees satisfied? This requires a few key things:

Help employees deal with stressful events. Helping employees deal with stressful events, such as job loss or a divorce, reduces negative emotions and creates a more positive work environment.

Offer corporate wellness programs. Offering wellness programs, such as fitness classes or mental health counseling, can increase employee engagement and enhances their physical and mental well being.

Provide clear expectations. Employees who know what is expected of them are less likely to feel overwhelmed and are more likely to reach a state of flow while working.

Check-in regularly. One negative emotional experience can affect work life in many negative ways. Checking in with employees on a regular basis can help identify any potential stressors early on and prevent a build-up of stress.

Offer challenging but engaging tasks. A balance between being challenged and interested will increase employees' dopamine levels and will keep them excited and engaged.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Positive Emotions Affect Performance?

Broaden and build theory suggests that positive emotions broaden an individual’s thinking and approach to problem-solving, and also lead to increased persistence in the face of setbacks. The benefits of positive emotions also include inspiring individuals to pursue their goals with increased vigor and creativity.

In addition, positive emotions facilitate integration, which is the ability to see connections between disparate pieces of information. This enhanced cognitive processing leads to increased clarity and insight, which in turn can translate into improved performance.

How Do Positive Emotions Affect Learning?

A growing body of research suggests that positive emotions play an important role in learning. Studies have shown that students who are feeling happy or confident are more likely to pay attention in class, remember what they have learned, and perform better on tests.

Moreover, positive emotions can help people to see new possibilities and to find creative solutions to problems. In one experiment, students were asked to solve a difficult puzzle. Those who were in a good mood were more likely to persevere when they encountered difficulty and were more likely to find the hidden solution.

How Do Positive Emotions Affect Decision Making?

While it's often said that we should "think with our heads, not our hearts," it's well-established that emotions play a significant role in how we make decisions. This is especially true for positive emotions, which research has shown can lead to better decision-making and more positive outcomes.

Positive experiences and higher job satisfaction have been found to increase people's self-efficacy, or their belief in their ability to succeed, which can in turn lead to improved decision making. Finally, positive emotions have been shown to increase people's cognitive resources, helping them to see problems more clearly and think more deeply about potential solutions.