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The Most Contagious Thing in Your Workplace

Posted 9/22/2016 by UHBlog

A bad mood depletes and drains you, plus leads to health issues. Talk to us about ways to keep your good mood going strong.

The Most Contagious Thing in Your Workplace

Have you ever gone to work feeling happy and positive only to be sucked into someone else’s drama and negativity? That’s because moods are like germs. They can be shared and caught.

“Moods are the most contagious thing in the workplace, yet people don’t pay attention to them until they’ve infected the environment,” says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD. “When we talk about mood, it’s more general than emotions or feelings. With mood, it’s basically either good or bad.”

Employers should pay attention because negative moods and emotions can harm the bottom line and impact customer service, whereas companies with happy employees have a “happiness advantage” in the workplace. Their employees are more committed, effective, engaged, productive and go beyond basic requirements. They’re also less vulnerable to health issues, such as stress, illness, stomach pains, headaches, etc.

“I use the analogy of a backpack full of stones to describe how difficult it is to cope with a bad mood,” Dr. Adan says. “It’s very heavy and everything is more difficult. To me, that’s a bad mood. But when that same backpack is light and you can move easily, that's what a good mood feels like. Everything just feels easier.”

If you want to break the negativity cycle, Dr. Adan recommends trying these strategies:

  • Be aware. “The first thing is to recognize what’s going on in your workplace,” she says. “You can take action to protect yourself when you think, ‘Oh, oh. Someone is in a bad mood and I don’t want to catch it.’”
    That can serve as a signal to yourself to steer clear of that person or limit your exposure.
  • Change the dynamics. Imagine your team leader starting each meeting by asking each participant to name one good thing that happened to them over the last 24 hours. As each person at the table takes turns remembering and relaying that one thing – no matter how insignificant – people begin to smile. Everyone’s mood turns good.
    This is one way to reframe the situation, Dr. Adan says.
    “It literally changes the energy in the room and when we start the meeting, we’re still in a positive state of mind,” she says.
  • Have empathy. Realize that you can’t control anyone else’s reactions or responses other than your own, Dr. Adan says. That may help you to gain perspective and distance.
    “We really never know what is happening in someone else’s life,” she says. “Try not to be quick to judge.”
  • Develop self-care tools. There are a number of ways to build your resilience and avoid being caught up in negativity. Among the tools are:
    • Practice gratitude, which increases joy, optimism and happiness. This, in turn, benefits you physically by strengthening your immune system, lowering blood pressure, minimizing pain and improving sleep.
    • Learn S.M.A.R.T. (Stress Management and Resilience Training) techniques. This signature program offered through University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network (CIHN) helps you develop your stress resilience and improve your ability to react positively to stress to enhance your overall well-being.

“There are a lot of good organizational outcomes that come from having positive emotions in the workplace,” Dr. Adan says. “When we can see the glass as half full, we’re better able to meet the challenges at work and operate more effectively.”

Francoise Adan, MD is a psychiatrist and the medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Dr. Adan or any other doctor online.

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