WORKPLACE / AUG. 26, 2014
version 4, draft 4

You Won't Succeed If You're Hungry At Work

"You’re not yourself when you’re hungry" opines the Snickers advert, which features various people acting like divas until they munch on a chocolate bar and return to their normal selves.  A recent study suggests that such thinking may have some legs when it comes to getting the best out of yourself at work.

"Hungry people think about themselves instead of others and focus on their own needs, which leads them to feel and act entitled," the researchers, from Dartmouth College, proclaim in their paper.

All of which is not great for workforces that increasingly need to act in a coherent manner.  The research suggests that whilst entitlement can often have roots in our psychological or social selves, it can also be amplified by basic physiological drivers, such as being hungry, which brings out the caveman in us and encourages us to think of those primal needs first and foremost.

They suggest that better understanding this connection between hunger and entitlement can provide managers and employees alike with an easy means of adjusting behaviour, which would hopefully make our workplaces a better and more productive place.

The research also suggests that hunger based entitlement is much more malleable than entitlement brought about by other means, such as unfair treatment.

Their findings emerged when participants were surveyed before and after eating lunch about their level of entitlement.  The survey revealed that people who skipped lunch reported significantly higher levels of entitlement than their well fed peers.

They were also asked to reveal how much they agreed with general statements, such as "Great things should come to me," "If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat" and "I demand the best because I’m worth it."  These form part of Psychological Entitlement Scale, and hungrier participants would score higher on the scale.

It was also suggested by the research that hungry, and therefore entitled people, would be less willing to assist other people, a claim that the researchers tested by asking participants to complete an extra survey.  Lo and behold, the well fed were nearly 20% more likely to comply with this request than their hungry peers.

To further test the hypothesis, a second study was conducted whereby the smell of pizza being cooked in the corner drifted throughout the room where the participants were sat (salivating presumably!).  A participant came into the room, removed the pizza and left.  A control group were in the same situation but without the pizza. 

The aim was to see if the smell of pizza would make people feel hungry, and therefore entitled.  Perhaps not surprisingly, this indeed occur, with the pizza group significantly more entitled after the experiment than their control grouped peers.

"Hunger levels fluctuate through the day, and people’s sense of entitlement seems to fluctuate with them," the researchers explain.

"Entitlement can cause big problems in the workplace, so managers might want to provide food to employees or wait to schedule potentially contentious meetings until after lunch."

Sandwich envy

What would be particularly interesting is to see if sandwich envy would do the same thing.  You haven’t heard of sandwich envy?  Well, it’s a concept coined by legendary Nobel prize winning super brain Daniel Kahneman to explain the numerous benefits associated with making your own lunch/snacks for work each day.

Not only do you get to choose your nutritional input, but you get to enjoy the psychological benefits of making your food.  He suggested that when we make our food, we’re also anticipating what it will taste like when we get round to eating it.  This anticipation typically results in us eating less of it come meal time.

Would it also reduce our sense of entitlement?  Maybe that’s the topic for a follow up experiment.  Until then though, just make sure you’re not hungry when doing important things at work.

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