Powerful people smile more

Israeli study shows that although the pursuit of power has been found to reduce happiness, possessing power actually increases it.

Television characters from mob boss Tony Soprano to 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon seem to suggest that power is a gateway to loneliness, corruption, and unhappiness. But new findings from two Tel Aviv University researchers are challenging this perception.

PhD candidate Yona Kifer and her supervisor Prof. Daniel Heller of TAU’s Department of Organizational Behavior at the Faculty of Management set out to discover whether power inevitably brings misery and emotional devastation. Instead, they found power can actually make people happier.

The researchers found that a sense of power led to a heightened sense of well-being, and that one of the reasons for this effect is that power increases “authenticity”—the extent to which people feel they are being true to their deepest desires.

The researchers say these findings can be a valuable tool for managers who wish to boost employee morale.

“In organizations, giving people a sense of power can dramatically improve job satisfaction, which is linked to improved performance,” Kifer says. This can also have a positive impact on creativity. If an employee feels more authentic, they may be less guided by expectations and mainstream norms, and more willing to think outside the box.

The research work was done in collaboration with Prof. Wei Qi Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick, and Prof. Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University.

The study was published in the journal, Psychological Science.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.