Faking your feelings at work will leave you feeling more stressed and less productive, according to a new study.
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While ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ is a phrase commonly heard in workplaces around the world, doing so with your feelings can backfire spectacularly, the University of Arizona research.
Published in the Applied Psychology journal, it found that workers who fake a positive attitude are undermining their chances of career success.
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And to make matters worse, these workers - dubbed “surface actors” - are also at much higher risk of psychological strain.
The study of 2,500 workers across different occupations found those who made an effort to engage with their emotions were more productive.
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“Surface acting is faking what you're displaying to other people. Inside, you may be upset or frustrated, but on the outside, you're trying your best to be pleasant or positive," Allison Gabriel, associate professor of management and organisations at the Eller College of Management said.
Why do people grin and bear it?
The study found there were two main factors behind workers’ decisions to be genuine or ham it up.
Some want to build relationships with other people, while others regulate their emotions to gain something.
But the third group, dubbed the ‘regulators’, were the most likely to ‘fake it’ to manage the impressions given off - and stressed the most because of it. This group suffered from greater levels of emotional exhaustion, and distress over feelings of inauthenticity.
"The main takeaway is that... those who are really trying to be positive with their co-workers - do so for prosocial reasons and reap significant benefits from these efforts," Gabriel said.
She said that while the ‘fake it’ mentality is likely a survival tactic, long term it can damage your health and workplace relationships.
"In many ways it all boils down to, 'Let's be nice to each other.' Not only will people feel better, but people's performance and social relationships can also improve."
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