By Alex Fradera
How much do experiences in one part of our lives have effects that spill into other, seemingly separate domains? One obvious candidate is the football team you follow – it’s a distinctive arena that matters greatly for many people and involves a range of experiences, both high and low. For a new paper in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, a team led by Panagiotis Gkorezis at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki have tested whether your football team’s success can affect how you feel and perform at work.
The researchers recruited 41 male officers in a Greek military unit, a convenient way to access a sample who came from across the country, and thus supported a range of teams – from bigger ones such as Olympiacos Pireaus to smaller fry like Hercules and Giannena.
Every Monday afternoon, the participants gave feedback on their team’s performance on the preceding day (Sunday being the major match day in Greece). Participants stated how satisfied they were with their team’s performance and reported their experiences on the current day, Monday, such as their negative emotions, which they rated using words like irritable, upset, and jittery. Satisfaction with their team’s Sunday play was related to their negative emotions on the Monday, with poorer performance putting fans down in the dumps.
Did these feelings affect work performance? The participants thought so: when they were on a downer, they rated themselves as less absorbed in their work, less dedicated to it, and pursuing it with less vigour – the three facets of workplace engagement – and they were more likely to disagree with the statement “Today, I performed well”.
“When football fans are dissatisfied with the performance of their team, they experience negative affect that makes them less engaged in their work, which, in turn, results in lower performance,” the researchers said.
Gkorezis’s team also looked for an impact of match day on participants’ positive emotions, such as feeling inspired, alert, and excited, but failed to find any. This may be because positive states are typically shorter-lasting than negative ones. It could also be the case that the buoyancy following a terrific game isn’t actually a helpful state for dealing with manoeuvre planning and other military-related tasks, so perhaps the participants made efforts to compartmentalise their positive feelings and hunker down (it’s probably easier to control positive emotions in this way than fend off rumination on negative topics).
Gkorezi and his colleagues advised that managers take into account that the day after football disappointment, any affected fans among their staff may not be in the greatest state to embark on tasks that require high engagement, and that their own managerial skills in shaping the feelings of the work team may be more important than ever. This could be the time to ease off, or to try and lift spirits and shift team mentality, turning staff away from one set of goalposts towards another.