Word happiness precedes productivity, or if productivity precedes

Word Count: 3,072 Daniela CocucciProfessor Gowans December 8, 2017 Happiness & Well-Being Final Paper   Does Happiness Cause Productivity? A Psychological and Economic Approach As once stated by positive psychologist Shawn Achor: “Happiness inspires productivity”. In examining a statement such as this, one may question whether or not happiness causes an individual to exhibit a greater level of productivity, or if productivity causes an individual to exhibit a higher level of happiness. In searching for the answer regarding whether happiness precedes productivity, or if productivity precedes happiness, two different disciplines can be utilized: a psychological perspective, and an economic perspective. This phenomena has been studied by numerous psychologists and economists alike, with various pieces of literature published on the topic of the interconnection of happiness and productivity. With the fact in mind that various studies have shown that happier people are more productive, it is helpful to examine these claims using various pieces of literature from both a psychological and economic perspective. In order to properly establish a claim towards concluding that happiness precedes productivity, it is vital to define what happiness and productivity are from the disciplines being discussed. According to Daniel Nettle, a positive psychologist and author of Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, happiness is the most basic of human desires. He divides happiness into three separate concepts – feelings of joy or pleasure, which he describes as “level one happiness”, the idea that the positive experiences in life outweigh the negative experience, the idea that he describes as “level two happiness”, and the concept of human flourishing, or eudaemonia, or fulfilling one’s potential, which he describes as “level three happiness”. Out of the three aforementioned levels of happiness, he believes most strongly in levels one and two constituting happiness. Level three happiness, he argues, is too vague, for it does not explain what one’s potential truly is. Productivity, according to S. Alexander Haslam in his work, entitled: Psychology in Organizations, productivity is the “congruity between a person’s self-definition and features of the task environment” (Haslam, 168). Examining the aforementioned from an economic viewpoint, productivity from an economic perspective is related to the following terms: “efficiency, effectiveness, cost savings, program evaluation, work measurement, employee incentives, and input-output analysis” (Burkehead et.al, 34). Jesse Burkhead and Patrick Hennigan define productivity from an economic perspective as the “input-output relationship in which factors of production – land, capital, and labor – are converted into outputs…an increase in output from the same amount of input” (Burkhead et.al, 34) in their work, entitled Productivity Analysis: A Search for Definition and Order. With the concepts of happiness and productivity established, psychologists Thomas Staw and Barry Wright explore the idea of the intersection of happiness and productivity in their work, entitled: Affect and Favorable Work Outcomes: Two Longitudinal Tests of the Happy-Productive Worker Thesis. In their work, Wright and Staw explore the link between happiness and productivity, and with what considerations a linkage of this nature exists. They preface their exploration between the link between happiness and productivity with the generalization that a higher level of positive affect can increase the given individual’s level of efficacy, or ability to produce a desired result, as well as an optimistic attitude towards performing the task at hand. Additionally, the authors draw attention to the individuals with a greater level of positive affect will be more attractive socially to their peers, offering that particular individual a greater amount of social support, thus leading to greater potential towards productivity. In looking towards the validity of the happy-productive worker thesis, as posed by numerous psychologists in previous research efforts, they establish two hypotheses: the first being that the individual’s affective state directly correlates with the level of performance over a given period of time, and second, that the individual’s affective state is directionally associated with the level of performance of tasks over a given period of time. To measure this longitudinally, 81 individuals were randomly selected from a public sector, social welfare department with at least a college degree. The PANAS, or the Positive-Negative Affect Schedule, was used to assess the subject’s affect level prior to the beginning of the experiment. Subjects’ results were then recorded based on questions within the assessment. To measure employee performance, which is the productivity measure, two separate measurements were used by the researchers. The first was a 5-point system, with 0 being the lowest ranking, 5 the highest, measuring the employee’s current performance at the given time in question. That is, how well the employee completed the task at hand in the absence of any distractions or delays, as well as the quality of the performance of the task upon completion. Additionally, as a second measure, the employee’s work facilitation, goal emphasis, support and team building skills were also measured, and once again, ranked with a 5-point system, with 0 as the lowest possible score, and 5 being the highest score possible. Upon examining the results, the researchers concluded that individuals that exhibited a greater level of positive affect at the beginning of the experiment as measured by the PANAS tended to exhibit greater levels of positivity, as opposed to their counterparts that scored as having low levels of positive affect as measured by the PANAS. Individuals that were found at the beginning of the experiment to be “nervous, jittery, or afraid” (Staw et.al, 11) were the individuals that tended to be less productive. A strong positive correlation of 0.77 was seen between high levels of positive affect and level of productivity, while a negative correlation of -0.44 was seen between the presence of low levels of positive affect and worker productivity. Overall, through this study, the idea that the happy worker is the more productive worker is supported – the presence of high levels of positive affect, in turn, result in greater levels of productivity of a given individual. In a second study, economists Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi explore the link between an individual’s happiness and their productivity in their work, entitled Happiness and Productivity. To do so, they constructed two separate randomized trials, where they both experimentally assigned and manipulated happiness, as well as assimilated real unhappiness shocks, including family illness and bereavement circumstances. Their total sample of test subjects was two hundred and eighty dollars, divided into two separate test groups of twenty-five people each. Each test subject was offered a five dollar instant reward for showing up for the experiment, as well as additional monetary incentives for performing well on the exam given at the end of the experiment. In an attempt to increase the happiness or “positive affect” of the test subjects, the group being tested towards examining whether or not positive affect was positively correlated with increased production were shown a ten minute comedy clip at the beginning of the experiment. On the other hand, the control group was not shown the comedy clip, and was instead to wait for ten minutes. Following the test subjects’ viewing of the comedy clip, they were asked to complete a brief GMAT-style set of mathematical equations, which included basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and algebra. Additionally, test subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire at the end of the math-style questions assessing their happiness, personal characteristic traits, and their self-assessment on their intellectual abilities towards their completion of the questionnaire. The researchers performed the same experiment over the course of four separate days, keeping the subjects in the group of test subjects that watched the comedy clip and the group of test subjects that did not watch the comedy clip constant as well. Overall, the researchers concluded that subjects who were shown the short comedy clip in the beginning of the experiment lead to greater productivity, that is, quicker completion and higher performance in the questions posed through the GMAT exam. Further, individuals who watched the short comedy reported feelings of confidence, joy, relaxation, and positivity in the questionnaire given following the exam. The researchers concluded that their findings can have significant implications for economics. They pose that since they observed that individual well-being has a positive effect on the correlation between happiness and productivity, firms may find it useful to utilize this information and consequently adjust their promotion policies for their employees, how firms choose to structure their individual labor markets, as well as implicate human resource policies that place emphasis on ensuring the happiness and well-being of their employees, in an attempt to elicit greater productivity for their firms. Further, the positive link between worker happiness and worker productivity suggests that reinforcement tactics towards improving the wellbeing of employees would operate soundly on a macroeconomic level, leaving both firms and employees better off overall. As shown through the above works, the link between high levels of positive affect and happiness and subsequently high levels of productivity positively exists. In simple terms, the happy worker is the most productive worker. Through various works I have reviewed, there are various economic and psychological views that support this idea that happiness and productivity are positively interconnected. According to the American Psychological Association, the definition of psychology is: “the study of the mind and behavior…all aspects of the human experience – from the functions of the brain to the actions or nations, from child development to care for the aged”. Economics, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the production of goods, the consumption of those produced goods, and the subsequent analysis of this production of goods, the distribution of these goods, and the consumption patterns by consumers of these goods. Upon initial glance, it would potentially be difficult, perhaps, to assess a link between happiness and productivity within these two disciplines. In psychology, for an individual to be considered being productive in the venture in which they are undertaking, as eluded to in the beginning of my analyses, is the “congruity between a person’s self-definition and features of the task environment”, as stated by S. Alexander Haslam. Productivity in economics is primarily concerned with high levels of production output for a relatively low cost, or maximizing consumption and minimizing production costs. Understanding the nature of these two disciplines is vital towards arriving at the interconnection of happiness and productivity in each of these disciplines. In the first discussed article, which was Thomas Staw and Barry Wright’s work, entitled: Affect and Favorable Work Outcomes: Two Longitudinal Tests of the Happy-Productive Worker Thesis, the two researchers showed through longitudinal testing that overall, individuals that responded to the Positive and Negative Affect Scale with the presence of more positive emotions, that these individuals were the ones that were found to be the most productive. Interestingly, I found another study that follows up to this initial study that I introduced. Gerald Ledford, an economist at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, further comments on the aforementioned works of Shaw and Wright, and puts their findings into a larger context on an economic scale. In short, Ledford suggests that an additional way that the happy worker production thesis could be placed into a larger economic scale is to include organizational aspects within a particular firm that could potentially have a positive effect on the individual. Further, including measurements of both outcomes and predictors of positive affect, Ledford agrees, would be useful when placing the studies of Wright and Shaw into an economic concept, when examining the idea of happiness and productivity on a macroeconomic level. His final point, which I believe is his strongest point, is that the previous work that Wright and Shaw do in their initial research on the link between happiness and productivity could be greater expanded to see if there is a link between job satisfaction and happiness. Are individuals that possess an overall higher level of positive affect more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than individuals who have higher levels of negative affect? To this question I would have reason to believe that yes, individuals who have higher levels of positive affect would have a higher level of job satisfaction, for drawing on the second study, it was found that individuals who had higher levels of positive affect after viewing the comedy clip reported feelings of excitedness, joy, relaxation, among other happy feelings. This, I believe, is a significant takeaway of these previously discussed studies. The simple link, that is, between happiness and productivity, a concept that is confirmed through studies in both the disciplines in psychology and economics, is a concept that could be the foundation of various other points of interest in both disciplines, for example, Ledford’s suggestion towards exploring the link between job satisfaction and happiness. I believe that the research done in all of the aforementioned works is valuable towards examining the link between happiness and productivity, a link that I believe is quite relevant in many contemporary areas of both everyday life and everyday study. The idea of greater levels of happiness directly correlating to higher levels of productivity is a concept that I reason to believe sounds so intuitive, and so overly-simplistic, that there must be some sort of obstacle preventing the happy-productive individual. However, as seen through research done by both psychologists and economists alike, the presence of positive affect among individuals with a given task reaps great benefits for all individuals involved. The concept of happiness relating to increased levels of productivity can be applied not only to test performance in an experimental setting where the manipulation of both happiness and test variables measuring the level of productivity achieved, but to various other areas of interest. As a first example, as mentioned before, the linkages between happiness and productivity can be evaluated by different firms and employers in order to move their workplaces towards having an overall higher level of happiness present among workers. This, in turn, could be seen to be beneficial to firms in the long run. Happier workers would, in turn, lead to higher levels of productivity in the workplace, preventing the slowdown of projects and streamlining of firm-wide initiatives, thus eventually leading to a higher quality of work produced by employees, and a greater feeling of accomplishment and worthiness by employees upon completion of high-production driven work. As another example of where the studies done between happiness and production could prove to be valuable is examining the ways by which educators could experience greater levels of productivity among their students. Most specifically, the discussed research could be useful in educators seeking the following in their students: enthusiasm for doing their work, timely completion of assignments given to them, and greater cooperation and coordination of both students, teachers and parents of students in the completion and understanding of work assigned. This could potentially be most useful to students who have learning disabilities, in instructor modification of teaching methods that would elicit a greater amount of enthusiasm by these students with learning difficulties towards completing their work, which would prove to be beneficial for both students and educators alike. The utilization of these methods in increasing the happiness of the individual who is given a task to complete will overall, as seen, lead to higher levels of production and greater amounts of work completed. This could potentially be beneficial to all individuals involved – to those expecting a task to be completed by an individual and the individual that is given the task to complete in a timely and effective matter. It is for the various potential implications of the studies of the positive linkage between happiness and productivity on many different scales that I believe that this study is most valuable. Numerous different sectors could take these studies and adjust in-place aspects of their everyday operations to increase happiness, and therefore, productivity. A potential opposition to studies done that conclude that happiness positively correlates towards productivity would be the insertion of the hedonic treadmill into the equation – which would then mean that since an individual is never truly “happy”, and instead always searching for some goal greater than one that has already been attained, then the general statement that those individuals who experience greater levels of positive affect are more productive would prove to be problematic. A potential response towards an objection such as this one would be to pose that this theory does not explicitly state that an individual need be one hundred percent satisfied or happy with their current state in order to achieve a high level of productivity. While an individual may be inclined to be more productive should they feel that they are at the happiest point that is personally possible for them, this is not explicitly stated in the aforementioned research. Most crucial in these studies done by the aforementioned psychologists and economists is that the presence of positive affect in the individual in question will therefore cause productivity to increase as a direct result. It can be argued that the eventual diminishing of these levels of positive affect are inevitable, relating to the idea of the hedonic treadmill of never being truly happy or satisfied with what is at hand, but what these studies are arguing is that the presence of positive affect in the completion of a task at hand, in these cases, an exam , will elicit a greater amount of productivity. While it is nearly impossible to experience high levels of positive affect forever, most valuably observed from these studies is that the possession of high levels of happiness when completing a task lead to a greater amount of productivity in completing that particular task at hand at that moment it is given. In summation, through the previously introduced studies, it is reasonable to conclude, with a high level of certainty, that happy people, that is, individuals who possess a high level of positive affect, perform better on given tasks, and exhibit a high level of productivity in completing these tasks. That is, individuals who possess a high level of positive affect at the time of being given a certain task will perform that task with a greater amount of productivity than individuals who do not possess as high a level as positive affect, if any at all. This idea is both seen through the separate disciplines of psychology and economics, showing the interrelatedness of the two when examining the phenomena of the happy worker being the most productive worker. In addressing the previously posed statement that the happy worker is the more productive worker, the research discussed indicates that research supports this claim, and various applications of these studies are relevant towards improving various aspects of everyday life.Works Cited Burkhead, Jesse, and Patrick J. Hennigan. “Productivity Analysis: A Search for Definition and Order.” Public Administration Review, vol. 38, no. 1, 1978, pp. 34–40. JSTORHaslam, S. Alexander. Psychology in Organizations: the Social Identity Approach. Sage Publications, 2011.Ledford, Gerald E. “Comment: Happiness and Productivity Revisited.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 20, no. 1, 1999, pp. 25–30. JSTOR.Nettle, Daniel. Happiness: the Science behind Your Smile. Oxford University Press, 2009.Oswald, Andrew, author, et al. “Happiness and Productivity.” Journal of Labor Economics, no. 4, 2015, p. 789.Wright, Thomas A., and Barry M. Staw. “Affect and Favorable Work Outcomes: Two Longitudinal Tests of the Happy-Productive Worker Thesis.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 20, no. 1, 1999, pp. 1–23. JSTOR.”What Is Psychology?” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/support/about-apa.aspx.