- New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Neal M. Ashkanasy and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 3: Fear and Loathing in the Workplace
3 Fear and loathing in the workplace Julie Fitness [A]n Army functions best when you’re frightened of the man above you and contemptuous of your subordinates. (Mailer, 1948, p. 181) Introduction Negative emotions are ubiquitous in workplace relationships. Workers in every type of organizational context will sometimes fear their superiors, loathe their co-workers, and despise their subordinates. Moreover, workers’ experiences and expressions of these and other powerful emotions such as anger, disgust, and shame have the capacity to seriously damage workplace morale and productivity. However, there is still much we do not understand about the causes and consequences of such potentially diﬃcult and destructive emotions in the workplace. The original brief for this chapter was negative emotions at work, but it should be noted from the outset that from a functionalist perspective, there are no truly ‘negative’ emotions. All emotions are potentially adaptive states of action readiness (Frijda, 2007) that may or may not feel ‘good’ and that may or may not have destructive consequences. Love, for example, is typically conceptualized as a positive emotion that feels wonderful and that motivates constructive behaviors. However, love can also be experienced as a torment that interferes with ongoing goals and plans and that has the potential to turn a workplace upside-down with intrigues, conﬂicts, and jealousies. Similarly, anger (a prototypically ‘negative’ emotion) may feel energizing and motivate constructive eﬀorts to change an unjust situation (Lerner & Tiedens, 2006). Guilt, too, is an agonizing emotion that may, nonetheless, motivate constructive...
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