Study: Optimism in the Workplace Doesn’t Actually Affect Performance

Co-Authored by Elizabeth Tenney, David Eccles School of Business assistant professor of management

SALT LAKE CITY--()--We’ve all been told to whistle while we work because a cheerful, hopeful worker is better at a job than one who isn’t. But is that really true?

Elizabeth Tenney, assistant professor of management at the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business, explored the subject in the paper she co-authored, “(Too) Optimistic About Optimism: The Belief that Optimism Improves Performance” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“I am interested in the question of when do people value optimism and think it is a really useful or good mindset for people to have, and when do they think that other mindsets might be better,” Tenney said. “I kept hearing about how optimistic mindset was so great, but then you think about all the times that striving for accuracy might be better for the individual.”

In the end, her study found that optimism didn’t help a person’s performance as much as people thought it would.

However, Tenney speculates that there are two places where others would value optimism. The first would be in a situation where business executives or leaders needed to motivate their employees.

The second situation would be when a business leader or entrepreneur needed to win someone over to a new idea or to invest in a new company.

“People are going to think that you need that optimism in order to perform, and they will expect your optimism and value it, but how much that optimism actually ends up helping you, well that’s another question,” Tenney said.

Listen to a podcast of Tenney discussing her findings here: http://eccles.link/optimism.

About the David Eccles School of Business

Founded in 1917 in Salt Lake City, the David Eccles School of Business offers eight undergraduate majors, four MBAs, five other graduate programs, a Ph.D. program, and executive education offerings. The Eccles School operates the country’s largest student-run venture capital fund with $18.3 million. It is home to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation. Approximately 4,500 students are enrolled in its undergraduate, graduate and executive degree programs. For more information, visit business.utah.edu or call 801-581-7676.

Contacts

David Eccles School of Business
Pete Codella, APR, 801-587-8365
pete.codella@eccles.utah.edu
or
Method Communications
Jeff DuBois, 801-461-9789
jeff@methodcommunications.com

Contacts

David Eccles School of Business
Pete Codella, APR, 801-587-8365
pete.codella@eccles.utah.edu
or
Method Communications
Jeff DuBois, 801-461-9789
jeff@methodcommunications.com