How positive and negative experiences in the workplace affect your mood (for better or worse)

Are you experiencing daily hassles and uplifts at work? If you have a full-time job, there is a good chance that you are repeatedly dealing with pleasant and unpleasant experiences while performing your duties every day.

Daily hassles are the little things that can irritate or frustrate employees at work. Examples of daily hassles may include lack of supervisor support, a heavy workload, conflict or unpleasant interactions, or annoying practical problems such as having too many responsibilities. Daily uplifts, by contrast, are positive experiences in the workplace that make employees feel good. Receiving positive feedback about one’s performance, receiving support from a supervisor, or experiencing joy from relating well to co-workers are examples of daily uplifts.

These daily positive and negative experiences at work, it turns out, can create emotional fluctuations in employees. In other words, our work lives are full of daily hassles and uplifts that can trigger stress and pleasure – and hinder or improve our well-being and performance in the workplace.

Daily positive and negative experiences at work can create emotional fluctuations in employees

In their paper A working day in the life of employees, Esade researcher Rita Rueff and her co-authors Ana Junça-Silva (University Institute of Lisbon) and António Caetano (Business Research Unit of ISCTE) examine how these daily hassles and uplifts can affect employees’ job satisfaction, work engagement, well-being, and even mental health.

To validate their hypotheses, the researchers conducted three parallel studies with 441 employees – 222 men and 219 women – working in education, financial services, health and retail.

Mood fluctuations at work

“Our findings show that employees who experience a large number of daily uplifts at work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and lives and increase their job resources and challenging job demands, and less likely to disengage from work or suffer from stress, anxiety, or depression,” says Rueff.

It turns out you should pay more attention to your positive and negative experiences at work if you want to feel better.

But while positive daily experiences at work help us see the glass half full and can have a direct positive impact on our mood and well-being in the office, the findings also reveal daily hassles at work have an opposite effect: negative experiences trigger poor work engagement and job crafting, and higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Happy employee
Employees who experience a large number of daily uplifts at work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and lives (Photo: Fizkes/Getty)

“The pattern we found in our studies suggests that employees who showed high levels of daily hassles were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs, or to increase their job resources and challenging job demands,” argue the researchers. “What’s more, employees with higher levels of daily hassles are more likely to disengage from their work and to suffer from negative psychological symptoms, such as stress.”

The five daily uplifts to increase your mood at work

According to the researchers, if you want to increase your well-being and positive mood at work you should look for the following five daily uplifts in your daily work relations.

1. Pleasant interpersonal interactions, helpfulness, and compliments

This first uplift refers to agreeable situations or behaviours toward oneself or toward others by work colleagues, managers/supervisors, or customers. For instance, the simple act of giving and receiving help and compliments from someone at work can substantially increase your well-being and positive mood.

2. Achievements, recognition, and task-related uplifts

This refers to involvement in interesting tasks, the achievement of job-related targets or goals, and receiving different forms of recognition or rewards for the work, for meeting targets, or for performing a job to a high standard.

3. Humour and communication

This factor encompasses engaging in good-humoured, friendly, assertive, supportive, and approachable behaviours with other employees. Having a nice time and laughing in the office is highly beneficial and contributes to uplifting your positive mood. 

4. Organisational uplifts

This refers to organisational policies and rules that promote the occurrence of minor pleasures, such as daily breaks, social meetings, or accepted requests.

5. Time management and customer-related uplifts

This factor in increasing your positive mood involves efficient time management of your daily tasks and positive experiences involving well-mannered customers.

The five daily hassles to be aware of at work

If you are feeling down or lack motivation at work, the research findings show that the following five daily hassles could be part of the problem. If you want to feel better at work and stay motivated, try to reduce (if you can) your exposure to these hassles in your daily interactions at work.

1. Conflicts and unpleasant interpersonal interactions

This relates to disagreeable behaviours or situations directed at an employee by work colleagues, managers, supervisors, or customers. These events involve communication difficulties, aggressive communication, lack of empathy, and bad mood behaviours.

2. Time management and task-related hassles

This concerns difficulties in managing daily tasks and involvement in routine, uninteresting, unwanted, and unchallenging tasks.

3. Threats to self-efficacy and performance

This factor refers to personal difficulties or flaws that somehow threaten an individual’s self-efficacy and negatively influence employees’ behaviours, attitudes, and performance at work.

4. Failures, interruption, and annoyances

This refers to events or conditions arising from work that somehow disturb the individual’s daily work. For example, someone in the team making a mistake, being interrupted during a task, having to work overtime due to an unexpected task, or arriving late for work.

5. Organisational and leader-related hassles

These hassles involve organisational hurdles such as stupid bureaucratic rules interfering with someone’s work, working too long without a break, or receiving orders about how to do the job.

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