Research paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 521-537

First online:

The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited

  • John M. ZelenskiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Carleton University Email author 
  • , Steven A. MurphyAffiliated withSprott School of Business, Carleton University
  • , David A. JenkinsAffiliated withPublic Works and Government Services Canada

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Despite extensive research on the subject spanning over 70 years, uncertainty still remains as to whether happier workers are in fact more productive. This study combined longitudinal prospective and experience sampling methods to examine the relationship between happiness and self-reported productivity among Directors employed in the public and private sectors. Analyses at a trait level suggested happy people were more productive. Similarly, at the state level of analysis, people were more productive when they were happier. Among the happiness indicators examined (job satisfaction, quality of work life, life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect) positive affect was most strongly, but not exclusively, tied to productivity at both the state and trait levels. Discussion focuses on reconciling a long history of mixed findings regarding the happy-productive worker thesis.


Productivity Positive affect Negative affect Job satisfaction Life satisfaction Quality of work life Happiness Emotions Personality Experience sampling