David Bolchover of Management Today reports that a leader's attitude is "highly contagious" and therefore managers have to set the mood of the workplace in order to lift others.
Bolchover says research by organisational psychologists has uncovered a clear relationship between moods and assorted aspects of job performance, such as decision making, creativity, teamwork, negotiation and leadership.
He cites Sigal Barsade, associate professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who says: "Positive people cognitively process more efficiently and more appropriately. If you're in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you're in a positive mood, you're more open to taking in information and handling it effectively."
The issue actually extends beyond management. Nigel Nicholson, professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, says certain individuals without formal status can also play a key role in setting the mood: "In any organisation, there are opinion-leaders. They are not necessarily bosses, but they are at the centre of informal networks. They have charisma and magnetism, possess strong opinions and express them forcefully. They therefore have considerable social power and can influence morale."
Bolchover offers some advice for leaders looking to set a positive tone. For instance, giving employees autonomy and offering them challenging work to match their skills and interests should trigger motivation and satisfaction.
Seeking positive people and appointing the right managers are more fundamental suggestions, and conveying a positive narrative is also important.
According to Timothy Judge of the University of Florida, giving positive feedback can have a dramatic effect on the mood of employees: "Positive performance feedback… enhances motivation through the positive feelings generated by the feedback… Rather than focusing on sub-standard performance and correcting improper behaviour, managers would be better served by praising high performance."