It is easy to terminate employees who display anger and irritation in their jobs, but a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal has found the situation is more complex.
The study finds when an individual’s identification with a company is high, anger over job situations often decreases a person’s intention to leave because such employees tend to blame themselves, rather than their employer, for anger over job issues.
Instead of walking away, they want to to stick it out and improve the organisation.
Conversely, when a person’s identity with his or her organisation is low, anger increases the intention to quit.
The practical implication of the research, the authors from Cambridge Judge Business School say, is that it is unwise for companies to broadly characterise specific emotions as beneficial or detrimental to the organisation.
“The study suggests that company policies that are designed to promote positive emotions or minimise negative emotions may in fact not have the intended effect,” says Jochen Menges, University Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at Cambridge Judge Business School and Professor of Leadership at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany in a statement.
“So rather than seeking to suppress certain workplace emotions, companies should instead adopt practices that seek to encourage greater organisational identification.”
For the study, researchers examined 135 employees in the United States and Europe who worked for a large company in the pilot training and certification business.
Over a one-year period, the employees were surveyed about their intentions to leave or remain with the company, and about general organization issues, such as schedule and pay.
In addition, the researchers asked the employees about specific matters related to the job, such as events that made them feel good or disrespected at their job, as well as instances that made them feel close to their co-workers.
Six months after their final survey, the researchers analysed the actual staff turnover.
They found a significant correlation between the number of employees intending to leave the company and the actual staff turnover.
The study examined how three discrete emotions – anger, guilt, and pride affect turnover intentions and found a dark side of positive emotion and a bright side of negative emotion.
For example, while pride is generally associated with a likelihood to remain at a company, for employees lacking in work-related identifications, a feeling of pride made them more likely to consider moving on.
So it turns out in most cases, employees are angry because they care a lot about the company.
If an employee quits with a cool head, that’s when the company might really be in trouble.
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