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Evidence that Work Sucks

by Beth on July 28th, 2010

Scientists at Harvard and Northeastern Universities used the social networking cite twitter to study moods.  The researchers coded words that were linked to positive, negative, and neutral moods and tracked the hourly fluctuations of over 300 million tweets.  Results revealed that people were most negative on Thursday and were happiest on Sunday morning.  Throughout the day people were happiest in the early morning and late in the evening and were most unhappy during standard work hours.

I think this is pretty strong evidence for the fact that work sucks for most people.  They are generally unhappy while at work and are in especially bad moods by the time Thursday rolls around.  So much negativity at work means that companies are missing out on the benefits associated with positivity including higher levels of job performance, perceived customer service, leadership potential, and prosocial behavior.

So what can be done to avoid the negativity that builds as the workweek progresses?


Managers can create a positive work environment by establishing trusting relationships with their employees.  Trust is demonstrated when managers focus on results rather than constantly checking up on their employees.  Employees experience more positive emotions when they have the freedom to work when, where, and how they choose.


Another way to increase positivity at work is to help employees shape their roles so that they are using their strengths.  Applying a strength releases positive emotions like joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  Employees who use their strengths at work are more engaged and also more successful.  Often small changes can be made, like modifying or trading tasks, so that people are responsible for tasks that require their particular strengths.


Employees also experience more positive emotions at work when they feel their work is purposeful and significant.  Managers need to communicate how the work their employees do serves a valued purpose.  Meaningfulness is created by making sure people know the significance of the tasks they perform and by articulating the organization’s mission so that employees can identify with the company’s goals and values.

The Twitter study reveals the negativity that most people experience at work.  Make sure your employees don’t have to wait for Sunday morning to feel positive.  Focus on trust, strengths, and meaningfulness to create a work environment where positive emotions are experienced all week long.

  1. Francesco Frova permalink

    I agree… but which big company will ever undertake such a overhaul of their policies?

    Such changes will probably be introduced by small companies, and then, slowly, almost per osmosis, will then be absorbed by corporations!

    Time span for this to happen? 15 to 20 years…

  2. Beth permalink

    You are right that change will take time. But I am encouraged by seeing companies that have already adopted a Results-Only Work Environment and others that are using a strengths-based focus in their recruiting and performance management. Also, more and more companies are realizing the importance of making more than profits. For many, making meaning is becoming a priority.

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