This just in: a bad mood, with appropriate timing, can be a good thing.
Psychology researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia induced sadness or happiness in subjects and then measured their performances in a number of clinical tasks. While they found that a good mood … happiness, in other words … was a definite boost to creativity, a sad mood led to better abilities in judging truth. People in a sad mood were better at critical thinking, and could even recall events better. They were less prone to making snap decisions based on prejudice, and they were better at producing effective, persuasive messages.
Now, I don’t suggest that anyone go into the office next week on a deliberate mission to bring everyone down. I still believe that the most productivity occurs in a happy environment and, let’s face it, there’s enough bad news out there already. But as leaders, we need to be flexible and skilled enough to create environments where the appropriate thinking styles can come to the forefront at the proper times. That most often means fostering an upbeat, enjoyable and, at times, ‘fun’ environment that stimulates creativity and team bonding. But, research now indicates, when tough decisions must be made, something can be said for putting the toys and donuts away and evaluating the options with a somber mind.
So, be conscious of both your good moods and bad moods and how you use them. Just as you don’t want to kill a creative process with a scowl, you don’t want to lighten things up at the wrong time either. Reminding people of some somber realities as you are evaluating your options or making key decisions just may be the best approach.