A story I briefly caught on Headline News as I was on my way out the door today intrigued me.  The story spoke of a report which indicated that a grumpy worker may be a companies most productive asset.  Consider the following,

Recent research shows it could be the grumpy workers who are actually a company’s most creative problem-solvers, said Jing Zhou, associate professor of management at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate Schoolof Management at Rice University.

It’s the happy, cheerful folks who tend to think things are going well and that there are no problems to be solved, she said. They’re less likely to be pondering potential pitfalls and often don’t see problems until there is a crisis.

In addition, workers who are less pleasant are more likely to question the status quo.  Dr. Zhou indicates that such studies are not directly applicable to the workplace, unfortunately in our sound-bite culture, some will interpret this as a mandate to make their employee miserable in hopes of boosting productivity. As with most management, this is yet another variable in a fine balancing act that must be played out everyday.

For those managers who think of this as a possibility, consider the affect of a decree by Chicago’s Mayor Daley for all Chicago Bears fans to be happy the day of the Superbowl.  Since he noticed when the Bears win, people in Chicago are happy, if all the people are happy the Bears should win right?  This would be the difference between correlation and causality.  Dr. Levitt points out that “when it comes to making public policy, only causal relationships are relevant” and so it is with management policy as well.

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