I always remember a friend of mine saying that she never allowed a bad mood in her kitchen. A chef in a bad mood, preparing food, is a recipe for disaster. A foodie who goes by the moniker “Jetgirlcity” said on her blog – “I tried making dinner for my parents tonight, as a thank-you for putting me up before my big move to Boston – everything (roasted squash, quinoa with caramelized onions and dried cranberries, chicken braised with sherry and mushrooms) was good in theory but kind of suffered in execution. I’ve been in a terrible mood all week, and I honestly think that’s what killed dinner tonight.”
David Cain, owner of raptitude.com (a site that is focused on helping us get better at being human) says “(Bad) moods are a bizarre animal. They’re like a nasty drug that hijacks your thoughts and robs you of your intuition and perspective. They make bad things look bigger and good things look smaller. “
If you are constantly in a bad mood, chances are you’re probably making these well meaning, but stress-inducing mistakes.
Here are two such mistakes that entrepreneur Craig Ballantyne identifies:
- You’re probably making unnecessary commitments – Take a deep dive into your priorities for the next 90 days and then re-evaluate how much time and energy you have for other things.
Until then, don’t make promises you won’t keep. It sounds selfish, but it’s not. It’s the right decision for your right life. Everything and everyone else will be there 90 days from now. Let them be patient while you get focused.
- You need to speak Up Sooner – You are probably letting things build up inside of yourself for too long and when you finally do share, it can be harsh. Not that others should be coddled, but if you could blow off a smaller amount of steam before allowing it to become a geyser, everyone would benefit, and problems would be fixed faster.
And what about sleep? Are you getting enough sleep? Irrespective of how well you were able to get on with your day after that most recent night without sleep, it is unlikely that you felt especially upbeat and joyous about the world. Your more-negative-than-usual perspective will have resulted from a generalized low mood, which is a normal consequence of being overtired. More important than just the mood, this mind-set is often accompanied by decreases in willingness to think and act proactively, control impulses, feel positive about you, empathize with others, and generally use emotional intelligence. [Source: The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest]
What happens though when your entire organization is in a “bad mood”?
How can you tell if your company is in a bad mood? In a November 2014 Harvard Business Review article, we learn that the signs aren’t always overt. People aren’t biting each other’s heads off or glaring sullenly across the conference table, but instead, it feels like everyone is just … coasting.
Jeff Hayzlett, who wrote the foreword of their book, says a bad mood comes from employees believing their best days are behind them, not ahead of them. And of course, it is culture that creates that belief—and it is leaders who create the culture.
Before you can shift a bad mood, you need to know you have one. Here are 11 red flags to look for:
- Everyone plays the blame game. As soon as a ball is dropped, the finger-pointing and blame-dodging begins. “It was her responsibility, not mine!” “Don’t look at me—I wasn’t told about that policy change!” “He was supposed to email me the update, but I never received it!” You know how this goes. And odds are, it isn’t happening because all of your employees are vengeful, spiteful jerks—it’s happening because employees are afraid of what the consequences will be for whoever is left holding the bag.
- Employees are paid for attendance, not performance.
In organizations that are overshadowed by bad moods, most employees come to work each day and perform the tasks within their job description, but no more. If they don’t consider a problem to be “their responsibility,” they pass it on to the next guy or they bring it to you expecting a solution.
- Information is treated like a commodity instead of freely shared.
Some companies use information as a type of currency—the right juicy piece of info can buy you lunch, help get you a promotion, bring kudos your way, or be traded for other valuable information. And then, some information is downright suppressed because it may threaten some supervisor’s concept of job security. Added up, that’s a recipe for disillusionment and mistrust amongst your workforce.
- Customers are “dealt with,” not served.
Most companies have anything ranging from one person to a whole department dedicated to so-called “customer service.” But let’s be honest: For most of these departments, a more accurate name would be “complaint resolution department.” Employees take calls or answer emails from unhappy customers and then try to resolve the problem as quickly as possible (often relying on a script or protocol), then move on to the next.
- Everyone hides behind their screens.
If you notice that your employees prefer to do business through a computer or smartphone screen, even when they don’t have to, it is cause for concern. Very possibly, they feel that your company—and their positions in it—just aren’t worth the extra time and energy that a face-to-face meeting (or even a phone call!) would require.
- There’s an attitude, but it doesn’t involve gratitude.
Think back on the recent interactions you’ve had with your employees. Chances are, they included phrases like, “I need you to do this,” “Please have that report to me by the end of the day,” and maybe even, “We need to talk about how you can improve.” But did any of those interactions include the words “thank you”? If not, you might be unwittingly contributing to your company’s bad mood.
- People can’t seem to execute.
When your company isn’t able to meet its goals, your first inclination might be to blame your employees for being unable to execute. And in turn, that blame will probably make an already bad mood worse. So before doling out accusations, say Houlihan and Harvey, you should take a look in the mirror and make sure you aren’t using a leadership style that is keeping people from getting things done.
- Nobody bothers to contribute new ideas.
If most of your employees’ ideas get stuck in compliance limbo or are slapped down (or appropriated by) supervisors, even the most innovative employees will eventually become discouraged or frustrated to the point of not speaking up with future ideas.
- Your turnover is high.
There’s a myth that when company cultures are serious and businesslike productivity improves. But the reality is, productivity improves when people enjoy being at work and enjoy the work they’re doing.
- It’s ‘every man for himself.’
Employees who aren’t invested in your organization’s future usually won’t go out of their way to give pointers to the new hire or proofread a colleague’s report, for example.
- Strategic partners don’t want to work with your company.
If vendors, suppliers, bankers, and other third parties begin not renewing their contracts, your company’s mood may need a major adjustment. That’s because employees who aren’t invested in your company’s future are much more likely to treat these partners with a lack of respect, to withhold information and tell white lies, and to be slow to respond.
Cultivating a good mood in your organization is the key to unleashing a transformative entrepreneurial spirit in your people.
“If you’re not sure where to begin, go for the low-hanging fruit,” Houlihan advises. “Reread the list of bad mood indicators above, identify which one or two are the biggest inhibitors to progress in your company, and start there.” If you want some ideas as to what to do to fix your situation send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, phone number, your unique situation and the best time to call you.