The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We included the terms ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ in these scales because they increase the face validity of assessing the happy-productive worker thesis. This choice is not entirely consistent with strict definitions of positive affect and negative affect, e.g., as operationalized in the PANAS. Because of this discrepancy, we also calculated emotion scales that omitted ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. These scales correlate .99 to .97 (across PA and NA, between- and within-subject) with their equivalents reported here, and the variation in scoring has virtually no impact on further analyses (correlations or regressions).

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Correspondence to John M. Zelenski.

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Zelenski, J.M., Murphy, S.A. & Jenkins, D.A. The Happy-Productive Worker Thesis Revisited. J Happiness Stud 9, 521–537 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-008-9087-4

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Keywords

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