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Positive & Authentic Attitude Can Improve Work Environment

New research finds that being positive at work improves productivity and leads to other benefits. However, you must be real and match behavior with the way you feel — in other words, don’t fake it. Investigators found that displaying authenticity significantly improves obtainment of work goals.

Dr. Chris Rosen, a management professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas helped design a study led by Dr. Allison Gabriel, associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Arizona. Their findings appear in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“We found that people who put forth effort to display positive emotions towards others at work — versus faking their feelings — receive higher levels of support and trust from co-workers,” Rosen said.

“These people also reported significantly higher levels of progress on work goals likely due to the support they received.”

Researchers reviewed surveys of more than 2,500 working adults in a variety of industries, including education, manufacturing, engineering and financial services. Investigators analyzed two types of emotion regulation people use at work: surface acting and deep acting.

Surface acting involves faking positive emotions when interacting with others in the work environment. One might be frustrated or angry on the inside, but the external appearance disguises those feelings.

Deep acting involves trying to change how one feels internally. With deep acting, individuals try to feel more positively in order to be more pleasant when interacting with others.

The researchers wanted to know if people regulated their emotions when interacting with co-workers, and, if so, why they chose to do this if there were no formal rules requiring them to do so. And then, what benefits, if any, did they receive from this effort?

The investigators identified four types of people who regulate their emotions with co-workers. Non-actors engage in negligible levels of surface and deep acting, low actors display slightly higher surface and deep acting. They also discovered deep actors exhibit the highest levels of deep acting and low levels of surface acting, and regulators display high levels of surface and deep acting.

Nonactors were the smallest group in each study, and the other three groups were similar in size.

Regulators were driven by “impression management,” which the researchers defined as strategic motives that include gaining access to resources or looking good in front of colleagues and supervisors.

Deep actors were much more likely to be motivated by “prosocial” concerns, meaning they chose to regulate their emotions with co-workers to foster positive work relationships and be courteous.

Regulators — those who mixed high levels of surface and deep acting — experienced emotional exhaustion and fatigue, the researchers found, whereas those who relied largely on deep acting had improved well-being.

Source: University of Arkansas

Positive & Authentic Attitude Can Improve Work Environment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Positive & Authentic Attitude Can Improve Work Environment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Feb 2020 (Originally: 8 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 7 Feb 2020
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