Putting on a Happy Face
August 19, 2014

We have all heard the expression, “Fake it until you make it,” and there is most definitely an existing school of thought in the world of psychology that if you aren’t feeling happy, plastering a forced smile on your face will help to improve your mood. However, a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University in 2011 actually suggests otherwise.

The study followed a group of 78 bus drivers for two weeks as they conducted their daily work tasks. During this time, the drivers took surveys regarding their emotions before work, at the conclusion of their workday, and prior to going to bed at night. The drivers were asked about their hours of sleep, their mood, and if they felt that had been emotionally “wearing a mask” that day. The researchers discovered that drivers who practiced fake smiling at work became withdrawn throughout the day, their moods worsened overall, they reported increased family conflict at home, and they suffered from insomnia later that night. Oppositely, those who smiled only when they genuinely felt it experienced increased work productivity, a better mood overall, and higher quality sleep in the evening. From these findings, the researchers concluded that suppressing negative thoughts and emotions can actually make them more persistent.

Based on this conclusion, it is important to consider that in the business world, faking your emotions can actually be detrimental in any career. If you are constantly pretending to be or feel something you are not when you are at work, the majority of people are likely to pick up on your lack of authenticity. This could cause people to feel you are untrustworthy, and not want to do business with you. When you are being genuine, it will convey a sense of honesty and vulnerability which help to establish trust.