I had just taken my seat at the IMAX theatre to see the movie. My friend was visiting from out of town and we decided that this was the perfect thing to do on a cold day. Apparently, so did everyone else in our city— the place was packed and as the people piled in, it became obvious that we were going to run out of seats.
Eventually, one of the employees asked if everyone could move to the middle so they could make room for the people still being seated. Quickly, my friend and I stood up and moved one more seat to my left. We sat down and continued to enjoy our time talking. Suddenly, we overheard the women to my friend’s right begin to complain.
“That isn’t fair— why do we need to move when we got here early and they didn’t?” My friend and I heard this and smiled at each other. Five minutes later, she went on. “Why should I be punished for getting to the theatre on time? I shouldn’t have to move and be made uncomfortable!” I whispered to my friend that some people are never happy and she smiled back.
I finally took a good look at the woman who could only view her world half-empty. The reality was that moving over one seat actually improved her visual experience. She truly had a better seat now. However, she couldn’t see that. She couldn’t see anything but misery.
People can focus on the smallest things in life and become unhappy. However, when they take these attitudes to work with them, it becomes everyone’s problem.
Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, studied employee mood and it’s impact on job performance. In the study, she asked telephone customer service representatives from a Fortune 500 company to record their moods during various times of the day over a three week period. They took into account the impact of individual temperament and the moods of their customers. The results proved that when beginning their day, the employee’s mood influenced their mood for the rest of the shift.
It should be no surprise to hear that employees that were happy at the beginning of the day generally stayed that way throughout their day. They responded more positively to their interactions with customers, which resulted in better customer service. Those that came to work miserable tended to continue to feel worse as the day wore on. The important point to glean from this study is that these negative mood shifts resulted in more than a 10% decline in employee productivity.
If you do the math, you can see the implications for revenue loss for any organization. Companies, big or small, can’t afford to have chronic negative employees on their team. Now imagine what happens when the negative employee spreads their bad attitude to the people around them. It’s like an infectious disease that can destroy the culture, productivity and in turn, the profitability of any organization.
Now, back to my miserable friend at the movie theatre. Hopefully, she will change her ways. Maybe it was a one-time thing and I just hit her on the wrong day. But in all probability, she goes to work somewhere every day with this same perspective on life and infects her co-workers with this attitude.
I hope that’s not the case.