If You Have To Fake Your Emotions At Work, Research Shows You're Probably Going To Be Miserable
Do you regularly have to ‘fake’ having a good attitude at work? Do you have to consciously “act” or “put on a show” to display appropriate emotions at work? If you do, you’re probably a lot less happy with your job than those that don’t have to put on a show.
I’m not talking about the occasional day where we feel grumpy or tired or frustrated. When those dour moods hit, most of us can check our bad mood at the door, put on a happy face by faking a smile, and then go home and sleep it off. We have tough days, but there’s no lasting harm done. But when we’re consistently faking it, when day-after-day our brains are stuck in a pep-talk loop just to try and force ourselves to display the right kind of emotional intelligence, we’re depleting valuable energy. And the result is a drain on our reserves — we get burned out.
More than 5,000 people have taken the free online test “Does Your Job Require High Or Low Emotional Intelligence?” And after analyzing the data, we’ve made a scary discovery.
One of the questions asks quiz-takers to rate the statement “I have to consciously “act” or “put on a show” to display appropriate emotions at work” with the choices Always, Frequently, Rarely or Never.
We learned that 51% of people said that they Always or Frequently have to ‘act’ or ‘put on a show.’ Right away we can see that a lot of people are having to exert real energy to force a smile or fake empathy or positivity at work. And over time, that’s bound to cause real fatigue and burn out.
But we made an even bigger discovery; that 51% who have to ‘put on a show’ are 32% less likely to love their job. Or put another way, if you don't have to fake your emotions at work, you’re 32% more likely to love your job.
And not only will you be more likely to love your job, you’re also much less likely to have negative feelings about your job. People that don’t have to put on a show are 59% less likely to dislike or hate their job.
This new data tells us several things. First, if you’re selecting people for your company, it reinforces the importance of Hiring for Attitude. Most organizations know how to hire for skill, but the most successful companies also have the tools to hire for attitude. And if you’re choosing a job for yourself, it shows that you need to choose a job where you’re not going to have to fake the right attitude every day.
My hiring for attitude research found that when new hires fail, 89% of the time it’s for attitudinal reasons and only 11% for having insufficient technical skills. In fact, out of that 89% that failed for attitude, 23% of new hires failed for issues related to emotional intelligence, and another 15% failed for having the wrong temperament (i.e. having the wrong attitude and personality for a particular job and work environment).
Data from study of over 20,000 new hires
This data also suggests that a lot of people would probably benefit from taking a deep look at their own emotional intelligence, particularly to discover whether they have to do lots of acting on the job. Because the more they’re forced to act like they have the right attitude, the less happy they’re ultimately going to be.
I strongly encourage everyone to conduct the following emotional intelligence exercise focused on self-awareness. This will help you discover your personal triggers, so you know what types of environments will require you to do lots of faking and which ones will better fit your personality.
First, think about a time you had to fake the proper emotions at work. Now ask yourself: What was the setting? Where did I feel that? What was going on at that moment?
Second, we need to ask ourselves what about that setting caused us to have to fake our emotions? We were probably feeling angry or apprehensive or frustrated, etc., so we’d like to know what kind of situation caused us to feel that way. And not only were we feeling negative emotions, we were probably in an environment where it would have been inappropriate to display those emotions candidly, so we need to detail that as well.
Third, we need to ask, ‘how did I handle those feelings?’ Nobody has perfect emotional intelligence all of the time. We're going to have moments where we act brilliantly and moments where we react poorly. We need to be able to admit and analyze those moments with candor and honesty.
If you do this exercise a few times, you’re going to have a good sample of times where your job required you to put on a show or fake your emotions. And that’s going to tell you a lot about how many of these moments you face, where they occur and how well you handle them.
Once you know your triggers and how much acting you have to do at work, you can better assess whether you’re in a position fits your natural personality. And if you’re looking for a new job, use what you learned to develop some intelligent questions to ask during interviews that allow you to assess whether a prospective environment is a good or bad attitudinal fit for you.
Mark Murphy is the author of Truth At Work: The Science Of Delivering Tough Messages, Hiring For Attitude and Hundred Percenters.