The way the live: Tell colleagues to `have a nice day' or lose your job

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It is no longer enough to be good at your job, a senior psychologist believes. Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, discovers you now have to adopt a "have a nice day" manner, even with colleagues, or risk being accused of having an attitude problem.

A few years ago the plastic smile and false bonhomie was expected only from those who worked for American-owned fast food chains.

Now "have a nice day" culture has invaded the back offices of British companies, according to Sandi Mann, a psychologist at Salford University.

The climate of downsizing, restructuring and increasingly fierce competition means that people feel the need to appear "interested, enthusiastic, warm and friendly" at all times - even when there are no customers present.

A failure to put on the right front carries the risk of being seen as "less of a team player, as having an attitude problem, or as being difficult to work with". Such an employee could soon find a P45 in the internal mail, Ms Mann told the British Psychological Society's annual occupation psychology conference in Eastbourne.

The psychologist attempts to debunk, however, the theory that Britons find the "nice day" culture offensive.

She asserts that the British quite like the phoney civility - some would say servility - exhibited by representatives of companies in the service sector.

Yet we expect sincerity when dealing with colleagues. In the US, the reverse is true. Americans will put up with relative indifference from those providing services, but expect colleagues to exude warmth.

"Being fake is stressful and attempting to make fake emotional displays appear genuine is even more stressful. So the waitress who plasters on the fake smile for customers is at less risk from stress-related illness than the office worker who must not only fake enthusiasm and interest to colleagues, but must work hard at making such displays appear genuine."

In her paper "Don't Tell Me To `Have A Nice Day'" she says that expected emotions are faked in about a quarter of in-house communications. Undesired emotions are suppressed in 10 per cent of cases.

Ms Mann conducted her survey among around 100 students in both America and Britain, all of whom had considerable experience of employment.