Bob Goldman
Be honest now. What would you do if you came to work one morning and found the entire management team standing before you, big toothy smiles plastered across their scary, evil faces?

Would you turn around and run out of the building like a wimp, or would you stand your ground, quietly weeping, mewing and begging for mercy?

Frankly, either reaction would certainly make sense. No one could blame you for concluding that a smiling management team is up to no good. But guess what -- they could be smiling because they had read the research about happy employees being more productive employees, and had decided to treat happiness as a highly contagious disease -- a disease for which there was no defense and no cure. Once you saw the whites of their eyes and teeth, you would have no choice; you'd have to be happy.

If this horror story plays out in your workplace, you can blame Nancy Rothbard and Steffanie Wilk, associate professors at the business schools of Ohio State University and the University of Pennsylvania. Or so they were in October 2011 when Professor Rothbard published an article on the subject in The Wall Street Journal.

The article, entitled "Put on a Happy Face. Seriously," described research done by the two profs on happiness in the workplace. (You would think it be would difficult to find any examples of happiness in the workplace in 2011, but apparently, the researchers managed.)

"We asked U.S.-based telephone customer-service representatives for a Fortune 500 company to record their moods at the start of and at various times during the day for a three-week period," Rothbard wrote. "The reps who were happy at the start of the day generally stayed that way as the day progressed. Those who came to work miserable, on the other hand, tended to feel worse after interacting with customers, which in turn led to a 10 percent decline in their productivity."

Putting aside the pure misery of constantly being asked if you are happy, two or 10 times a day, you have to admit that work can actually feel different depending on your mood. But deciding whether or not you are happy may not be quite so black and white. Take today, for example. If I remind you of all the people who don't have jobs, you're happy with your miserable job. But if I tell you that I'm dictating this column while sitting on the talcum-powder white sands of Bongo-Bongo, a mai tai in one hand and a Cuban cheroot in the other, even a wonderful job will leave you unhappy.


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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