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Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

Harold Mandel's picture
Team work

Researchers have discovered that paradoxically it can be good to feel bad at work. It is generally assumed that people who have negative feelings at work are a detriment to their companies, but this does not appear to always be true.


It can be good to feel bad and bad to feel good

Researchers have explored the topic of when it can actually be good to feel bad and bad to feel good reported the journal Human Relations. This presents us with a significant change from a tendency in the field of Management and Organizational Studies to highlight symmetrical relationships between so-called positive emotions and positive outcomes, and negative emotions and negative outcomes, respectively. The insights gained from this study have significance for new considerations in organizational practice.

Feeling good in the workplace can lead to negative outcomes

Feeling bad at work can actually be a good thing according to a report from the University of Liverpool. Researchers at the University of Liverpool have suggested that, contrary to popular beliefs, it can actually be good to feel bad at work, while feeling good in the workplace can actually lead to negative outcomes.

Dr Dirk Lindebaum from the University’s Management School, along with his co-author Professor Peter Jordan, pursued this research to investigate the role of emotions in the workplace. It is their position that the commonly held assumption that positivity in the workplace is associated with the production of positive outcomes, while negative emotions lead to negative outcomes, may need to be reconsidered.

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Anger does not always lead to negative outcomes

These researchers have raised the interesting consideration that anger does not always lead to negative outcomes. Anger after all can be used as a force for good via compelling actions to deal with injustices. In many instances anger is considered a force for good if the anger is motivated by perceived of violations of acceptable moral standards.

Being too positive in the workplace may lead to complacency

Consider if an employee feels a manager has treated a fellow worker unfairly the associated anger may be expressed constructively to help prevent these acts of injustice from happening again in the future. It should likewise be considered that being too positive in the workplace may lead to complacency and superficiality instead of leading to greater well-being and greater productivity.

Negativity can have a good affect within team situations

It has been observed that negativity can have a good affect within team situations. Negativity can lead to less consensus and therefore more in depth discussion between workers which enhances effectiveness of the team. Dr Lindebaum says overall these research findings challenge the widely held assumption that in the workplace positive emotions are associated a positive outcome, and vice versa.

It is correctly assumed that such insights add to our knowledge and understanding of how positive and negative dynamics affect the working environment. This should lead to more open minded responses by management to negative feelings at work and concern about whether too much positivity is actually a good thing. This knowledge should be used to create a more productive working team.