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Go ahead, be grumpy at work

By Brianna Liestman

In a service industry like ours, it is natural to put on a happy face at work – even when we’re feeling cranky. While that may be a good practice when interacting with our customers, research shows it may not be the most productive or healthy.

A recent Quartz post highlighted several studies that are relatively new, connecting workers’ productivity and their happiness. However, it also points out that English sociologist and economist William Davies says corporate happiness strategies can quickly backfire.

“The argument for promoting happiness at work has always been primarily about productivity,” he notes. “Employers seek various ways to boost employee morale and mood, or, if that fails, instruct them on how to behave in a happy way.”

Author Susan David also discusses the dangers of putting on a happy face every morning and fighting negative emotions.

“People who focus on being happy actually, over time, become less happy. … To be clear, I’m not anti-happiness. It’s more that our happiness comes not as a goal, but as a byproduct of engaging in honesty with ourselves.”

There is further research highlighted throughout, and the Quartz post comes to the conclusion that workers should go ahead and feel free to lean into their curmudgeonly ways at work for one’s overall health.

This is all well and good for anyone who faces a computer all day and interacts with very few people. Trust me, I am not nearly as perky and friendly staring at my computer before 9 a.m. on a Monday with my first caffeine intake (which is what I am doing right now as I write this) as I am at trade shows and press events. But we so often work in an industry where we can’t allow our bad mood to affect our clients. So, what do we do?

Businesses should consider giving their employees the leniency to be grumpy when they aren’t around customers. Let them feel their bad moods when they are in a space that won’t affect the bottom line, and encourage them to be honest about their feelings. Ultimately, it will create a culture of more honest, productive and healthy employees, which is always good for the business in the long run.

And if you are that employee, let yourself be grumpy when you’re grumpy! Don’t take it out on others, but it’s ok if you don’t smile through every minute of your day.

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