Quitting job in a huff is a myth, says Cambridge study

  • Prasun Sonwalkar
  • Updated: Jun 03, 2016 05:43 IST

LONDON: Anger over a job situation does not always lead to an employee quitting, according to a new study by researchers of the Cambridge Judge Business School. A more determining factor is the employee’s identification with the company.

Anger often decreases — rather than boosts — people’s intention to quit jobs, when they identify strongly with their companies, says the study, published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Anger at the workplace is commonly associated with employees storming out of office buildings and quitting their jobs. More broadly, positive emotions are usually thought to lead to constructive outcomes and negative emotions to damaging outcomes for business and other organisations.

However, the study finds that these generalisations are often a myth: when identification with a company is high, anger over job situations often decreases (rather than boosts) a person’s intention to leave because such employees want to stick it out and improve the organisation, rather than walk out in a huff.

Conversely, when a person’s identity with his or her organisation is low, anger increases the intention to quit.

The researchers found that for an individual highly-identified with the organisation, anger directed toward the organisation is similar to self-blame, because the organisation is part of the person’s self-definition. Hence, the person is less likely to respond to negative feelings by disengaging.

The practical implication of the research, according to the authors, 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,” said Jochen Menges, lecturer in organisational behaviour at the school. “So rather than seeking to suppress certain workplace emotions, companies should instead adopt practices that seek to encourage organisational identification.”

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