Worst Good News Ever: Why Feeling Bad at Work Might Be a Good Thing
"Everything you know is wrong." -Science
Do you work in retail and think, “This job would be great if it weren’t for the f*cking customers”? Maybe you’ve got a difficult boss? Perhaps people on the Internet give you shit about your proclivity for poop puns? Well, new findings from the University of Liverpool suggest that negativity in the workplace can actually lead to positive outcomes, so maybe you should be thanking those jerks (or maybe not).
The research, published in Human Relations by Dirk Lindebaum of the University of Liverpool and Peter Jordan of Griffith University in Australia, centers around the common management assumption that positivity in the workplace leads to positive outcomes. In analyzing different aspects of the workplace from employees standing up to managers to quality work output, they found that positivity wasn’t always the best tool.
In fact, one of the emotions they identified as potentially useful was anger. If you rage-snap your keyboard in half, you’ll probably have a hard time doing your job, but in non-Hulk-inducing amounts, they found anger to be an effective motivator. If employees are angry about something at work, they’re more likely to be motivated to change that thing for the better.
Beyond that, they also found that conflict between employees can lead to discussing issues in greater detail. If everyone just sits around on brightly colored bean bag chairs high-fiving each other and talking about how great everything is (pretty confident I just described Google’s work environment), they’re less likely to go to great lengths to discuss their work. Lindebaum and Jordan assert that everyone being happy leads to complacency.
However, they’re quick to note in the paper’s abstract that they don’t intend to entirely discredit the value of a positive work environment. Feeling bad all the time is probably not a good thing, either, and it’s always possible that a negative work environment that leads to more positive changes needs more changes than a happier one.
But feel free to go annoy the heck out of your coworkers today. Tell them it’s science!
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