Are you in the right mood for work today?


 Close up on – “Mood Task Match”

According to the originators of the theory, Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey, the ability based approach to Emotional Intelligence (EI) is “the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth”. Dr. Susan David ( adapted this to the easy to remember RUUM™ model (below) that I use every day. 

RUUM model by Susan David

RUUM model by Susan David

All steps of the RUUM strategy are broken down further into individual ‘tasks’, as described in detail in the MSCEIT (the Emotional Intelligence test). In this guide we are looking at Using Emotion and specifically something called Mood Task Match. This branch is broken down into ‘Facilitation’ and ‘Sensations’.

“To have the best mental performance and the most efficient pattern of brain activity, you need a match between the type of mood you are in and the type of task you are doing.”  Jeremy Gray, Ph.D. (research scientist, Washington University)

Have you ever had the experience of being in an important meeting, called by a senior manager, to discuss some bad news? Maybe the business isn’t achieving its quarterly targets. Perhaps you have heard them give this worrying news and then ask you to come up with ways to solve the problem quickly? Have you found yourself lost for ideas and subsequently very concerned about the future of the business and your job? This is a classic example of a mood task mismatch. The senior manager induced a negative mood with the bad news but then asked you to do something (generate ideas) that requires a positive mood!

I find Mood Task Match one of the most practical and easy to implement elements of the model. Once you have knowledge of how this works you can start seeing the benefits almost immediately. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I’m just not in the mood for this” or “I don’t feel like doing this today” then you already instinctively know that mood affects your behaviour and productivity. If you can harness this, you’ll see great improvements in your performance and feel a lot better too!

There are 2 elements to achieving Mood Task Match, let’s look first at ‘Facilitation’. This refers to the fact that emotions facilitate thinking and aid decision making. Fundamentally, how we feel influences our thoughts and behaviour. It’s important to note that all emotions are functional, they serve a purpose. Though we often label emotions as “Positive” or “Negative” no emotion is good or bad as such. All emotions are part of the normal experience of being human and we need to allow ourselves to feel them all. Hard as it may be to believe, the “negative” emotions can be useful to us. For example feeling anxious may tell us that something is important or that we need to take action about something that is not good for us. Emotions prioritise our thinking, telling us where we need to direct our attention.

“Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world”. Professor Joe Forgas

One of the things we can do to get the best from our emotions is to match them to the situation. If the emotions you are experiencing are not fitting to the situation at hand or are out of proportion to it, then they may not be helpful. Psychologists Gordon Bower and Alice Isen have studied the interaction of mood and thinking and their research, among others, shows that emotions influence our thinking in a variety of ways. Try to complete the third column to see how you could apply this to your own role.

Mood Task match 2.png

When we are in the right mood for the situation or task at hand we have achieved “Mood Task Match”. When we have this we experience what is sometimes called “flow”. We know we are in flow when we feel energised and motivated, time passes quickly and we’re pleased about this. We feel like we are achieving what we need to; being challenged but fully able to cope. It’s a great feeling!

Mood Task Matching enables us to get the best from ourselves. We will be able to do the kind of thinking that is required for the task at hand and ultimately get better results because of it. By contrast when we don’t have a mood task match time goes slowly and we feel stuck or unmotivated. We may be forcing ourselves to complete something because of a looming deadline but not feel as though we are able to do it. We may struggle for ideas or inspiration or make mistakes, missing details we should have seen. This can result in sub-standard results. We may still get the job done but it certainly won’t be our best work.

However, it is one thing to know what mood we need to be in but we also need to be able to generate that mood. That is where the second element ‘Sensations’ comes in to play. Sensations refers to our experience of emotion, how much empathy we experience and our ability to switch between moods. People with high levels of sensations find it easy to switch between moods and may find themselves “catching” moods from others. Those with lower levels will find it harder to switch moods and experience more instances of getting “stuck” in a mood they cannot shift. So to achieve mood task match we must be proficient at both the facilitation of the emotions and switching between them.

‘Simply ask yourself before you start a task – “what mood am I in and is it right for this task?’ 

Fiona Doran-Smith

For those with greater ability at sensations they will find it easy to switch quite subconsciously and provided they know what moods will be useful for which task (the facilitations bit) they should be able to achieve mood task match.

But if you have lower levels of ability it may take a more conscious and proactive approach to achieve. You will need to work to consciously change your mood. There are various ways that we can change moods in either direction:

To feel more positive:

·         Listen to your favourite music

·         Go for a walk

·         Talk to a friend

To feel less positive:

·         Listen to sad music

·         Recall a mildly negative experience such as receiving some constructive negative feedback or bad news

·         Sometimes doing a very focused and/or detailed task like checking a spreadsheet will induce a negative – neutral mood (it does for me!)

Another good way to switch your mood is to change your environment. Have you ever found that an idea has come to you when you stopped thinking about the problem? Maybe you’re taking a bath, or just dropping off to sleep when inspiration strikes? This is a good example of how environment and mood affects thinking.

You could also switch mood and help yourself to see a problem from a different perspective by encouraging the different moods of your team members. You may find an employee who is often critical to be draining but their negativity could give you valuable insights that the more open team members possibly won’t see.

“Emotion is not a second-class citizen in the world of the brain … mild anxiety actually improved performance on some kinds of difficult tasks, but hurt performance on others. Being in a pleasant mood boosted some kinds of performance, but impaired other kinds. To understand how a particular emotion or mood will influence performance, you have to take into account the type of task.”  Jeremy Gray, Ph.D. (research scientist, Washington University)

Mood Task Mating is relatively easy and a surprisingly powerful way to use your Emotional Intelligence to get the best outcomes for yourself, your teams and your business. So, next time you find yourself thinking “I am not in the mood for this” consider, what would be the best mood and how can I generate it? Or even better, proactively suit you mood to your tasks, using your emotional intelligence to help you prioritise and manage your schedule. And remember, all emotions serve a purpose, rule number one of emotional intelligence is to be open to them.

I really hope you found this e-guide useful. If you’d like to find out your actual level of Emotional Intelligence you can do so by taking the MSCEIT test, contact us to book this for you.


Fiona Doran-Smith