Creative pleasure or pressure? Everyday creativity, mood shift, and instrumental climate at work

  • TO, March L (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    In this project, we develop and test hypotheses about how employees use short-term task choice at work to facilitate emotional recovery from two kinds of negative moods over the course of the workday. Specifically, we suggest that engaging in a creative task may help employees move from a high arousal negative mood (e.g., worried, frustrated) in the morning to a positive mood later in the day. We draw on literature suggesting that creative activities can be inherently enjoyable, result in solutions to worrisome problems, and distract individuals from ruminating on unpleasant situations. All of these mechanisms could result in an “affective shift” from negative to positive mood. However, when the initial negative mood is low in arousal (e.g., depressed, sad), the individual may not have the energy to successfully engage in creative activity and may find efforts to do so even more draining. In this case, an alternative and more effective means of mood repair might be to perform a routine and undemanding task, allowing a period of mental recovery leading to a more positive mood later in the day.

    We also suggest that organizational climate has the capacity to undermine the effectiveness of these mood recovery strategies. In particular, we focus on instrumental climate for creativity - climate perception that being creative is instrumental for maximizing self-interest (e.g., reward, recognition) at work. We suggest that this climate may “kill the joy” of engaging in creative activities as well as “reduce the relief” of engaging in routine tasks, making it more difficult for employees who experience a negative mood in the morning to shift to a positive mood in the afternoon.

    Our hypotheses will be tested via two field studies using experience sampling methodology. This method allows us to track mood and activity changes within the same employees over the course of five to ten working days and provides strong external validity. A subsequent laboratory study in which we manipulate mood, task, and climate will allow for causal conclusions and strong internal validity.

    Our results may inform employees about how to effectively manage their moods at work as well as provide advice to employers about the possible detrimental effects of an instrumental climate for creativity in increasingly stressful workplaces. The results extend our past research on linkages between mood and creativity, contribute to the literature on emotional well-being, and enhance understanding of the self-regulation of emotions in the workplace.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/19


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