I work for a software company and we have recently had a debate around the value of measuring employee mood, this done via a polling widget which asks employees how are they feeling today and have to select from a range of options to indicate their mood.

My question:

Is there any research on this specific approach and whether it leads to any value in terms of employee engagement?

  • We have plenty of anecdotal information, maybe we'll get some research. – user8365 Apr 22 '16 at 19:04
  • Good sketch about polling - Yes minister polling – Ed Heal Apr 22 '16 at 20:35
  • I removed the comments. Once I removed the flagged ones, the remaining ones didn't make much sense so I didn't move them to chat. Nothing to see here, we do comment clean ups all the time :) – Jane S Apr 22 '16 at 23:10
  • @StephanBranczyk - Employee Engagement is a pretty standard business term that is a general measurement of how much an employee likes his job, feels about the future of the company, and how management is doing both running the company and managing the employees. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 25 '16 at 14:34
  • @Chad, Thanks. I didn't know that particular measurement. That makes what I previously said in my comment irrelevant. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 25 '16 at 21:46

From a personal experience standpoint, I feel like a poll / survey that pops up that I am forced to take about my mood would probably negatively impact my mood. You are basically asking people to stop what they are doing, reflect on themselves, and then report. That is a good amount of brain power and energy you are asking for, even if the survey is short and quick.

The act of reflecting on one's own mood in and of itself is extremely difficult and sometimes taxing to many people. On top of that, the results of such surveys are controversial at best. Many scientists feel that self-reported surveys about mood and "feelings" result in a data set that is not consistently accurate and possibly misleading.

Also, polls/surveys inherently give forced answers. The idea that you must fit in to one of them 5-10 sets of moods about a specific scenario / topic is not very realistic. People are complex and moods are extremely complex. People can feel both excited and apprehensive about something but surveys might not even have "apprehensive" as an option so the survey taker checks off "nervous" which is read entirely differently by an analyst.

Alternatively, if you are truly interested in trying to understand the happiness of your employees, create an anonymous suggestion box. The good old tried and true method of typing up a suggestion and placing it in a box is always a solid solution, but since you are in the tech sector you could also create your own version of the "WHISPER" app that allows employees to post thoughts and ideas anonymously. You would be surprised what people write in those boxes at their place of employment when they know it is anonymous!

If you feel you must, once you have a solid user base actually using your suggestion box app, you can then start putting up "scenarios" and ask people to comment on those. For instance, you can push a "special notification" to the app users asking them to give their suggestions about a specific event that recently happened, or a made or scenario, or even a person. This allows the employees to communicate in their own words which is much easier to infer inflection in and understand the basis of the individual writing the comment and why they are writing it versus a cold, hard checkbox.


re: reliability and validity of self reported assesments of mood/emotion

https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/780/docs/schwarz_feelings-as-information_7jan10.pdf https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/55956/1340_ftp.pdf?sequence=1

re: the taxing nature of recalling emotion or non-sensory experiences


  • Where's the research? – user8365 Apr 22 '16 at 19:07
  • I updated my answer with some research that reference the basis of my answer: reliability of self reported mood assessments and how much "brain power" asking such questions takes. – LindsayMac Apr 22 '16 at 20:24
  • 1
    @LindsayMac read the articles you referenced, great read and puts the whole issue behind us! Thanks – Okavango May 4 '16 at 11:29
  • @Okavango thank you very much! Glad you learned something. Would you be willing to mark my answer as an actual answer to your question? – LindsayMac May 18 '16 at 0:08

There is quite a bit of research into measuring employee engagement and using that information effectively. That is why there are dozens and probably hundreds of companies that are offering solutions to help your company do it better. My experience is it doesn't really matter what software you use so much as the content of the survey, and how the responses are handled.

The questions you ask matter. I have worked at companies that either through obliviousness or intention avoided asking questions about problems and concerns that were commonly shared among the employees. If you do not ask those questions it presents the image that management does not care about the concerns. If you present an image of not caring then the people start to wonder if the surveys are less about improving the company and more about finding out who is not happy and should be removed.

Share the results. The data should be anonymous, but sharing the group results helps show that management is paying attention and wants to address issues. It also helps empower your people to come up with solutions to problems that show up in the surveys. Which helps improve employee engagement.

Take the answers seriously. If the problems identified are ignored and management just goes forward with the plans that were giving the employees concern, then the whole process is wasted and may even be a negative for your company. If you are not going to take the feedback seriously then you are better off not wasting the time and expense of measuring engagement in the first place.

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    I wonder if the solutions to monitor/report on employee well being are actually beneficial or if it's just the case that companies willing to run such software are already interested in increasing employee happiness and therefore do so... – NotMe Apr 21 '16 at 19:58
  • "Happiness is Mandatory" - Paranoia RPG – Old_Lamplighter Apr 21 '16 at 20:19
  • @NotMe - Engagement is not well being. Engagement is more a measure of how much you enjoy your work and are confident in the company. An individuals engagement is relatively meaningless. But as a whole the company or at least work groups tend to have a shared engagement. The more engaged a companies employees are (as a whole) the more likely that company is healthy. When measured properly It is more a measure of management success than a judgement of any employees – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 21 '16 at 21:47

Here is a couple of thoughts:

Asking an employee about his/her mood on a daily basis is, IMHO, very intrusive to their private life. Theoretically, a persons mood should not affect the work. It's not the case in practice, but a lot of people just don't want that to affect their work and thus make big efforts to not display bad moods and let these affect their work.

These persons would probably consider the application irrelevant and would chose the first/default value.

Also, you don't mention what kind of App, but if my boss were to force me to install an app on my phone, I would again find that very intrusive, and I would probably find all the reasons in the world to postpone the installation and set up, and then I would probably try to find another job.


Surely the time that this survey is carried out or performed will affect the results.

For example some people are morning people. Others are better in the afternoon. That will affect there performance.

Another example just asking a person when they have just arrived after spending 1/2 in a traffic jam. They may be in a bad mood and thinking to themselves "god I wish I did not have this job and could stay at home". But in an hour or so may feel a lot better.

So I think these results are going to be a waste of time and money. There are better ways of engaging employees. Each person has different levers that affect how engaged in an activity. Some it is financial reward. Some a technical challenge. Some ....

I just get the feeling that this is an exercise in convincing the upper management they are trying to do something.

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