You’d better ditch the cheery client emails and work on your scowl if you’d like to get ahead in the workplace and amongst clients, according to a series of new studies.
The research, published by New York University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania under the extremely explanatory title, “Bliss is ignorance: How the magnitude of expressed happiness influences perceived naiveté and interpersonal exploitation,” looks at how the expression of extreme happiness influences the way people relate to one another.
While smiley souls are often consider likable, they are also widely considered to be naïve. According to a report by the World Economic Forum on the series of studies’ findings, researchers found test subjects assumed “that very happy people maintained their positive outlook either by not processing information deeply, or by sheltering themselves from negative information in the world.”
Another study found test subjects were more likely to select happy people as negotiation partners because they thought they’d be easier to exploit. There are other studies that have found happy people can be more gullible and susceptible to deception than people in bad moods so the joint study is not entirely shocking. Emotions have also been pointed to as powerful tools in negotiations with happiness sometimes proving detrimental.
But Dr. Richard Csiernik, an expert on workplace wellness and professor of social work at King’s University College at Western University Canada, says it depends on the context.
“I think perhaps in a setting where you’re doing a business deal… a situation where it’s competitive, absolutely, it may be a disadvantage to be happy-go-lucky and not care if you make the best deal and the best commission,” he says.
Especially in cases where it might be a one-off deal or you’re trying to get ahead. But if success to you is having a good relationship with a client, something you want to foster and grow, happiness, can be an asset.The same, he says, goes for your career.
“It’s all about the perspective of what you want out of your work – is it a job or a career you’re looking to build… those attitudes are important,” he says. “If you’re going to be jumping from place to place and always taking advantage and make more money, absolutely you want to be competitive, you want to be undercutting people, and you want to get ahead.”
But in today’s workplace culture, where the dialogue surrounding work-life balance and boosting employees productivity by creating “happier” work conditions, Csiernik says attitudes surrounding whether or not one should be happy at their job are apt to change.
The days of “showing up just for the paycheque” are over.
“People are turning down overtime to spend time with their kids, they don’t want to work 60 hours anymore,” he says. “Ten years ago we didn’t talk about mental health in the workplace and now (it’s) everywhere we go – so assuming that mental health, suppressing anxiety is bad that must mean we would want more positive mental health, more positivity, we would want more happiness.”