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Got out of the wrong side of the bed? Your work will show it!.

Got out of the wrong side of the bed? Your work will show it!

Employees' moods when they clock in at the start of the day affect not only how they perceive customers and react to their moods, but also how much work employees do and how well they do it.

So claims Steffanie Wilk, associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. Her research reveals that employees can get into negative spirals where they start the day in a bad mood and just get worse over the course of the day.'That is why it is so important for companies to find ways to help their workers to start the day on the right foot', she says.

She conducted the study with Nancy Rothbard, of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the results can be found in the October 2011 issue of Academy of Management Journal.

The study involved 29 customer-service representatives who handle telephone calls to a large US insurance company. The results show that, when employees start the day in a good mood, they tend to rate customers more positively throughout the day. They also tend to feel more positive themselves as the day progresses.

While the start-of-the-day mood sets a tone, the study reveals that employees' moods can and do change. And the good news is that employees are more likely to see an improvement in a bad mood than the loss of a good mood.

Positive customers are related to workers' positive moods but, perhaps surprisingly, negative customers do not hurt employees who were already in a bad mood.

The researchers call this the 'misery loves company' effect. Steffanie Wilk explains that 'If you are in a bad mood, it seems to help to talk to someone else who is feeling as bad as you. Maybe employees are able to blow off some steam by reacting to rude customers.'

A higher-than-normal positive mood is related to greater verbal fluency on the phone, for example minimal use of pauses in speech and fillers such as 'um' and 'uh' and less verbal fumbling, such as tripping over words or mumbling.

A higher-than-normal negative mood is related to employees doing less work. They tend to answer fewer calls and need more breaks between calls when they are feeling bad.

The research has clear implications for managers: do everything you can to help your employees to start the day in a good mood. 'We have all heard of companies that start the day with calisthenics or some team-building exercise. Many of us laugh at that, but there may be something to it,' concludes Steffanie Wilk.

Of course, companies have less control over the mood of their customers than that of their staff. Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider how customers' moods affect their perceptions of the quality of service they receive. In volume 3 issue 3 of International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Katarina Hellén and Maria Sääksjärvi reveal that happy consumers are less likely to react badly when things go wrong.

Another factor affecting the success or failure of quality initiatives in a company goes back to man's early development. John Dew (in the December 2011 issue of Quality Progress magazine) reveals that many modern quality initiatives fail because organizations do not embrace an appropriate quality culture but operate according to a tribal one. In tribal cultures, people hoard information and resources and fail to follow formal rules. They are rewarded for working round problems without correcting the cause.

'These obstacles must be overcome if organizations are to turn their tribal cultures into quality cultures,' John Dew concludes.

So there you have it: if you want your quality initiatives to succeed you must 'detribalize' your employees and make sure they start the day on a happy note.