How to Moderate the Effect of Negative Moods on Your (Team's) Performance

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

How to Moderate the Effect of Negative Moods on Your (Team's) Performance

You and your employees experience different moods. These moods can be roughly divided into positive and negative moods. Moods are important, because they influence the level of performance at work. Negative moods lead to lower levels of performance and productivity, and a good mood is often associated with higher levels of performance.

However less is known about:
1. Why negative moods are associated with poor performance, and
2. What can be done about it.
Chi, Chang and Huang (2015) studied the types of negative moods and their associations with performance and productivity levels by applying a self-control theory. Some types of self-control related characteristics are able to mitigate the effects of negative moods on performance and productivity levels. If organizations can adapt their organizational practices towards such characteristics they can create an environment in which performance and productivity levels can be maximized.

What is self-control? Self-control is referred to as the ability to control one’s emotions, behaviors and thus performances so as to realize one’s personal objectives and desires. When one fails to control one-self (self-control failure), a negative mood will be experienced.

According to the self-control theory, negative moods lead to lower-levels of self-control in three ways:
  1. CAPACITY-MECHANISM: People that experience a negative mood need to make effort to reduce the negative moods, which leaves less capacity for other self-control goals, resulting in self-control failures.
  2. MOTIVATION-MECHANISM: Negative moods reduce one’s motivation to regulate goal-oriented behaviors and thus reduces the willingness to put effort into pursuing your personal objectives sand interests.
  3. RESOURCE-MECHANISM: this line of reasoning suggests that negative moods deplete individuals’ resources that are necessary to control their emotions and behaviors used to achieve their personal goals and interests. It assumes that regulatory resources for self-control are only limited.
What type of individual characteristics can mitigate the negative effects of negative moods on performance and productivity? According to the study, there are differences in self-control tendencies of people. These differences among individuals moderate the effects of negative moods on their self-control:
  1. CONSCIOUSNESS: Individuals with high levels of consciousness are often characterized as hard-working, persistent and responsible people. They are highly motivated to achieve personal goals. A high level of consciousness moderates the effects of negative moods on performance and productivity levels mainly through the motivation-mechanism.
  2. POSITIVE DAILY MOOD: A positive mood moderates the effects of negative moods on performance and productivity levels by increasing the resources that are necessary for self-control. Besides, daily positive moods counterbalance the depletion of resources for self control in case of negative moods. As such, higher levels of daily positive moods moderate the effects of negative moods on performance and productivity levels mainly through the resource-mechanism.
  3. EMOTIONAL STABILITY: Stable people have a higher level of capacity to cope with their emotions – positive and negative emotions – and regulate other impulses as well. As such, a negative moods is less likely to lead to self-control failure among emotionally stable people. As such, this individual characteristic mainly works through the capacity-mechanism.
Chi, N. Chang, H. and Huang, H. (2015) “Can Personality Traits and Daily Positive Moods Buffer the Harmful Effects of Daily Negative Mood on Task Performance and Service Sabotage? A Self-control Perspective” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process
See also PowerPoint: Managing Psychological Well-being in Workplaces (Premium required).

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