- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

TORONTO — Misery loves company, and your company should love your misery.
Research by a Canadian psychology professor shows that people who arrive at work feeling unhappy are more productive and make fewer mistakes than those who show up at the job all sunshine and smiles.
"Happy people feel attention to detail takes away from their happy thoughts," said University of Alberta professor Robert Sinclair.
By contrast, "sad people use their task to distract from their sadness and so they pay more attention to detail."
Mr. Sinclair conducted three productivity studies testing the effect of mood on workers assembling computer circuit boards.
While there was no difference in the number of boards completed, the study found that happy people committed twice as many errors as sad people.
Mr. Sinclair, however, warned supervisors not to conclude that the key to increased productivity is making everyone else miserable.
"I dont want to be the poster child for bad bosses," Mr. Sinclair said. The mood enhancing effect of doing a good job didnt work if employees "felt the job was making them feel bad."
He also offered hope for companies saddled with too many happy workers.
"If happy people felt doing their job would maintain their happy feelings, they did well," Mr. Sinclair said.
Bosses should not greet employees in the morning with "have a sad day," the professor said. Instead, he advised employers to set goals in the workplace that deal with employees well-being.
If workers perceive "an intrinsic benefit … that they are contributing something not only for the good of the employer but also for their self and self-concept," they work better, Mr. Sinclair said.
Leonard Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia who has done similar research, has found individuals have their own "stop rules" that tell them when they are enjoying a task and want to continue, or when they feel bad and decide they have not done enough and need to do more.
Like Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Martin said employees who are given clearly defined tasks and immediate feedback are better at their jobs than those who feel like "a cog" in a corporation.
Sometimes, he said, people can create their own intrinsic values for a task.
Years ago, when he was working in a warehouse stacking boxes on palettes and strapping them down, Mr. Martin had a day when the load of shipments coming in was overwhelming.
Instead of feeling crushed by the volume, Mr. Martin and his fellow workers were swept up by a competitive mood.
Throughout history, Mr. Sinclair said, "organizations didnt take into account the feelings of their employees. Maybe its time to look at that in more detail."

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