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January 23, 2024

The Power of Smiling at the Workplace


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Discover the impact of smiling in the workplace. This simple action can produce a slew of benefits, from boosting productivity and fostering better professional relationships to enhancing morale and creating a positive work environment. And it doesn’t cost a cent.

Smiling is an incredibly simple way to uplift your day. It’s free, it takes only a second and it is accessible to everyone. Even infants will intentionally smile when they are just a few months old. We are aware of the positive effects of smiling during social interactions, but here’s the interesting bit: a smile is so powerful that even smiling by yourself and at yourself can lift your mood. Just try it!

In this article, we will look at the many documented benefits of smiling, with a focus on smiling in the workplace. There are certain situations in which smiling may not be appropriate (such as when giving your boss bad news!) On the whole, however, giving and receiving smiles is generally a good thing. So put a smile on your face and let’s get started.

Smiling creates a positive atmosphere at the workplace, builds rapport, diffuses tension and even increases performance.
Smiling creates a positive atmosphere at the workplace, builds rapport, diffuses tension and even increases performance.

The untapped power of smiling

Smiling has both physical and psychological benefits. We tend to think of smiles and laughter as a reaction – how we react toward external stimuli when something funny or positive occurs. But according to the facial-feedback theory, it works both ways. In other words, smiling and laughing can actually cause you to feel happier and more positive.

This is because when you smile, your brain releases “happy hormones” such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals not only elevate your mood but also reduce stress and anxiety by lowering your levels of stress hormones. Endorphins are known to relieve pain and improve mood, while dopamine gives you feelings of pleasure and motivation.

Smiling and laughing offer psychological and physiological benefits, such as boosting your mood, lowering your blood pressure and even relieving pain.
Smiling and laughing offer psychological and physiological benefits, such as boosting your mood, lowering your blood pressure and relieving pain.

In addition, smiling can bring physical benefits too. It has been shown to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Smiles and laughter are linked to humour and optimism, and these have been shown to boost your immune system (Study 1, Study 2). Even more fascinating is that smiling has been linked to living a longer life (Study 3, Study 4)! That’s certainly something to smile about.

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Now let’s see what the power of smiles can do at our workplaces.

Creates a positive atmosphere

Undeniably, smiling has the ability to create a positive and uplifting atmosphere, setting the tone for a friendly and welcoming environment. A harmonious work environment can boost morale and help team members feel motivated and supported, making them committed to delivering good work.

Smiling to build trust and rapport

Smiling is a sign of friendliness and approachability. When you smile in the workplace, it can help to break down barriers and build rapport with staff and superiors. This can bring about better communication and collaboration. After all, when people perceive you positively, they are more likely to cooperate with you.

When you wear a smile at the workplace, it makes you seem more friendly and approachable, thereby building trust and rapport with your colleagues
When you wear a smile at the workplace, it makes you seem more friendly and approachable, thereby building trust and rapport with colleagues

Smiling boosts your professional image

A well-timed smile displays confidence and competence, thereby enhancing your professional image. A warm smile, especially during networking events or client interactions, can leave a lasting positive impression. In customer-facing roles, a genuine smile can be a powerful asset, signalling that you are able and willing to assist. After a positive interaction with a capable, smiling employee, customers feel more satisfied and convinced. 

Smiling diffuses tension and antagonistic situations

Employed correctly, smiles can be instrumental in diffusing tension during conflicts or averting an argument before it begins. Approaching a disagreement with a positive, open attitude and a smile can encourage clear communication and help find more amicable solutions. It creates a more conducive environment for conflict resolution by de-escalating negative emotions and lightening the mood, after which everyone involved can be steered towards problem-solving.  

Improves relationships

Smiling and the positive emotions it is associated with help you to bond with others, both at the workplace and in social settings. It fosters a sense of camaraderie and connection when you share a smile with others. This enhances team dynamics, helping a team or department to stay united in the face of challenges. Moving beyond the workplace, research has shown that smiling can even make you seem more attractive (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7854600/). Surveys about attractive traits will usually find “having a sense of humour” listed somewhere near the top. In fact, one study found that a happy facial expression could even compensate for relative unattractiveness (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02699931.2013.817383#.U9KE0ZRdXKk)!

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Smiling increases performance and productivity

A workplace characterised by courtesy, positivity and mutual respect is conducive to increased productivity. When employees are in a positive state of mind, they are more likely to be productive and efficient in their work. Smiling can act as a catalyst for this positivity, leading to increased focus, creativity and problem-solving abilities. Put simply, we all like a pleasant, enjoyable work environment. And we will work better when faced with smiles rather than scowls from the people we spend eight hours a day with. Just consider the opposite: how productive will a group of stressed, anxious, nervous employees be?

Research has found that happy employees are measurably more productive, energised and engaged. They also tend to be more creative and hold a greater sense of community at the workplace.
Research has found that happy employees are measurably more productive, energised and engaged. They also tend to be more creative and hold a greater sense of community at the workplace.

It turns out that having happy employees does produce a measurable impact on work output and the bottom line. One study on happiness at work which looked at 3,000 people from 79 countries showed that the happiest employees are twice as productive, take one-tenth the sick leave of their least happy colleagues, are six times more energised, and intend to stay twice as long in their organisations.

Makes you a better leader

If you are a leader (or aspiring to be one), smiling is an effective leadership technique. Leaders who smile during their interactions often project an approachable and empathetic image. When you’re managing others, it helps your team members feel at ease. Also, employees are more likely to trust and respect leaders who demonstrate a positive and friendly demeanour. 

Additionally, smiling, like yawning, tends to be contagious. Most of us can’t help responding when we see someone smiling. As such, those in leadership positions are well placed to spread a little cheer around the workplace simply by smiling and creating a ripple effect. As a leader, creating such a positive environment also helps to improve company culture, paving the way for wider and longer term organisational effectiveness.

Start working on that smile

Before you head out and flash your smile, an important point to note is that it has to be authentic. An insincere or fake smile can be detected. Start by smiling at yourself in the mirror and holding it for about 15 seconds. Let those feel-good hormones kick in. Then get to your workplace with a spring in your step and a genuine grin on your face.

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 A smile can go a long way, but it must be authentic. You can start by smiling at yourself to lift your spirits before facing the day.
 A smile can go a long way, but it must be authentic. You can start by smiling at yourself to lift your spirits before facing the day.

As qualified coaches and psychologists, we can help you get in touch with your inner self, raise your emotional intelligence and connect better to the people around you. Let us show you how smiling (and other behaviours) can help you be a better version of yourself. Drop us a line.

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