COMPANY CULTURE / AUG. 29, 2014
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Feeling Good at Work can Lead to Negative Outcomes

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Being too positive in the workplace does not necessarily lead to greater well-being and productivity. Contrary to the mainstream notion, new research showed that feeling good at work may result in complacency and superficiality. As far as anger is concerned, “it does not always result in negative outcomes and can be used as a force for good through acting upon injustices”.

The study was conducted by Dr. Dirk Lindebaum from the University of Liverpool’s Management School together with Professor Peter Jordan in an attempt to investigate the role of emotions in the workplace. The researchers challenged the popular assumption that positivity in the workplace generates positive effects, while negative feelings produce negative outcomes. This is in part due to the fact that we don’t usually consider “the differences in work contexts which effect outcome”.

For example, anger can be a constructive agent if caused “by perceived violations of moral standards”. A worker, for instance could express anger in a fruitful way after a manager has treated a colleague unfairly.

In that case, anger can prove beneficial in preventing these incidents of injustice from happening again in the future.

How anger can be beneficial in team situations

Interestingly, another surprising finding is that negativity can have a positive effect within team situations in that it results in fewer consensuses, and therefore it sparks more discussion among employees, which in turn improves team effectiveness. Workers who don’t agree with each other on every occasion can increase workplace discussion and not spiral into superficiality.

However, positive emotions such as happiness can lead to complacency and poor work ethics.

Another study in the special issue of the journal Human Relations has found that too much compassion can lead to compassion fatigue, which refers to the emotional stress resulting from people’s exposure to traumatic events. It also appears that employees who were more emotionally intelligent were worse in negotiations compared to their lesser intelligent counterparts.

Those who are comfortable experiencing mixed emotions report greater well-being

A similar study cited in the Medical Daily suggests that people who feel comfortable talking about their experiences with a mixture of positive and negative emotions are more likely to have a greater psychological well-being.

Jonathan Adler, an assistant professor of psychology at Olin College in St. Louis, told HuffPost Live: "We found that those participants who were making meaning out of their experiences with a mixture of happiness and sadness actually showed increases in their psychological well-being, compared to people who were just reporting sadness, just reporting happiness, or some other mixture of emotions".

All in all, negative emotions are deemed detrimental to a productive workplace environment, but according to the aforementioned research negative feelings and particularly anger can be a stepping stone for cooperation and ideas generation among a group of employees.

 

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