Workspace Wednesday: Happy Music Makes Employees More Cooperative

When upbeat, happy music is played in the workplace, employees become more cooperative. This is according to Kevin Kniffin of the Harvard Business Review, who published his findings in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour

Kniffin and his colleagues had a group of students participate in 20 rounds of the public good game. Each participant was given 10 tokens, and during each round players had the choice to keep some or all of the tokens, or deposit them into a team fund. At the end of the round, the group could split the deposited tokens. Every time they chose the second option, their contributions were multiplied by one and a half. 

For the first session, the researchers played happy songs that were rhythmic and warm. These songs included "Walking on Sunshine," by Katrina and The Waves and "Yellow Submarine," by The Beatles. During the second session, they played screamo songs like “Smokahontas,” by Attack Attack! and “You Ain’t No Family,” by iwrestledabearonce.

The students listening to happy music were noticeably more cooperative then those listening to screamo and a third group that listened to no music at all. Interestingly enough, those listening to sreamo weren't any less cooperative than the students who didn't listen to music. 

"Even though the effects of happy music may seem like a mundane phenomenon, it shouldn’t be ignored. In my research, I’ve learned that the things that managers often overlook or take for granted can have a big impact in the workplace," Kniffin writes. "To increase cooperation, teams could regularly play happy music during meetings or brainstorming sessions, a simpler and cost-effective alternative to traditional team-building exercises and off-site retreats."

Personally, I have music for different moods -- there are certain artists I listen to when I am angry, playlists that get me energized, and even songs and artists that help keep me calm when I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed. After reading the above findings, I'm curious to see how that same music affects the moods of people around me, or how a company can use this research to compile a happy, team-building playlist to use at certain times of the day. With each person having such varying tastes in music, can something like the Beatles classic universally put people in better moods?