Lynne Curry: Reset mood if day starts badly

You've had one of those mornings. Your grouch of a husband woke up on the wrong side of his bed and you had a fight before you even brushed your teeth. You forgot to make your kids' school lunches the night before and by the time you finished, you didn't even have time for a piece of toast. You grabbed a cup of last night's coffee, heated it in the microwave, jumped in the car and took off. As soon as you hit the highway, a lunatic driver swerved in front of you and you spilled coffee down your front.

Can you turn your day around?

Although many employers assume employees dealing with stressful family situations and problematic commutes can check their emotions at the door, recent research conducted by Wharton School and Ohio State University professors documents that an employee's negative mood at the day's beginning affects their entire day's productivity.

Professors Rothbard and Wilk asked customer service representatives for a Fortune 500 company to record their moods at the start of and through the day for a three-week period. Their findings: representatives who started the day happy stayed that way throughout the day felt more positive after talking to customers and provided better and more customer service because they didn't need work breaks.

Customer representatives who started the day in a miserable mood felt worse after interacting with customers, leading to a greater than 10 percent decline in their productivity as they felt the need to take breaks between customer calls to get through the day.

The solution for you as an employee or your supervisor? Acknowledge the effect of a negative start to the day and intentionally reset your or your employees' mood.

If your morning starts out rough, stop for a minute in the office parking lot to reflect on what's good in your life despite the morning's challenges. If you have the luxury of driving to work alone, listen to your favorite radio station on your way to work.

By intentionally pressing the reset button on your mood, you avoid the domino effect created when customers or co-workers sense your inner upset and react to what they perceive as your tense energy.

If you're a supervisor, realize your first morning interactions with your employees have lasting consequences. If one of your employees makes an initial early morning mistake, don't jump on her.

Managers who show immediate frustration with an employee who arrives a few minutes late to work or mixes up a phone number first thing in the morning exacerbate the employee's bad mood, creating a negative tailspin that compromises the rest of that employee's day. Instead, wait until the employee settles in and can more easily accept constructive criticism.

Further, challenge yourself to find ways to create a positive start to your employees' mornings by providing muffins or cookies or a quick motivational staff meeting. CHG Healthcare Services, one of Fortune's 100 best companies to work for in 2011, provides employees a fresh fruit basket every morning and receives daylong productivity benefits.

If you're blessed with a good crew who connect well with each other, give them time and space to "take the edge off" anyone's rough morning by allowing them to check in with each other before getting down to work.

Even more importantly, reward your employees for what they give. Through quiet ingenuity, most employees discover strategies for doing things better. Have you thanked your employees today? If not, try taking the time.

-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. Email her at