New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Neal M. Ashkanasy and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 4: The Case for Emotion-induced Toxicity: Making Sense of Toxic Emotions in the Workplace
Sandra A. Lawrence* Introduction In recent years the term ‘toxic emotions’ has been used in both the academic literature (Clair & Dufresne, 2004; Herkenhoﬀ, 2004; Maitlis & Ozcelik, 2004) and in the broader mainstream media (Hall & Hampson, 2006; Issacs, 2006). Interest in toxic emotions has stemmed from Bradshaw’s (1988) work on toxic shame, although many of the references to the term are based on Frost’s (2003) highly acclaimed book, Toxic Emotions at Work: How Compassionate Managers Handle Pain and Conﬂict. In the book, Frost provided a framework for understanding toxic events as sources of destructive emotions in organizations. Frost drew together substantial literature linking organizational events to emotions and individual outcomes, to categorize events that can lead to toxicity in organizations. He identiﬁed that organizational toxic events fall into one or more of seven major categories: intention (e.g., bullying); insensitivity (e.g., lack of empathy); incompetence (e.g., poor interpersonal skills); inﬁdelity (e.g., lack of loyalty to others); institutional forces (e.g., perceptions of justice); intrusion (e.g., extra work and/or intentional blurring of the work private divide); and ﬁnally, inevitability (e.g., change in organizations). These seven toxic events are principally generated by either managers’ behaviors or structural processes and policies within organizations. Frost argued that these ‘toxic events’ in the workplace generate emotions that prove destructive to both the psychological and physiological health of individuals within an organization, and the goals the organization is trying to achieve. Despite toxic emotions becoming a popular concept, neither Frost, nor any other researcher, has endeavored...
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