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Emotion Regulation at Work Employees and Leaders’ Perspectives


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International Journal of Innovation and Economic Development
Volume 8, Issue 1, April 2022, Pages 50-71

Emotion Regulation at Work Employees and Leaders’ Perspectives

DOI: 10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.81.2004
URL: https://doi.org/10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.81.2004

Silvena Dencheva Yordanova1, Sonya Yordanova Dineva2
1 Varna University of Management, Bulgaria
2 University of East London, UK

Abstract: Organisations consist of people and people are beings guided not only by rational cognitive processes but also by emotions and seemingly irrational motives based on affect. This chapter elucidates the matter of intra- and interpersonal emotion regulation at work through the prism of employees and their leaders. It provides a critical overview of multiple aspects of the topic, outlining their importance in terms of subjective wellbeing in the workplace and objective performance at work as well as contemporary theoretical frameworks and empirically-based practical solutions. It helps readers to understand conscious and subconscious processes of regulating own and others’ emotions in occupational settings and explain various subsequent outcomes for organisations and their employees.

Keywords: Feeling Rules, Emotional Labour, Deep and Surface Acting, Psychological Flexibility, Workplace Bullying, Mobbing and Harassment, Empathy, Perspective Taking, Empathic Concern, Emotional Contagion, Spillover and Crossover Effects, Identity Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Compassionate Communication, Employee Voice, Toxic Leadership

1. Introduction

Emotions play a crucial role in our lives and while their regulation is important in general, its significance is amplified in work contexts where different feeling and behavioural rules are in place in the presence of various job demands stemming from both horizontal and vertical interpersonal relationships. On a daily basis, employees bring their emotions, work-related attitudes, perceptions of their employer, colleagues and customers to their workplaces and the ability to manage these emotions in an effective way to guarantee display of both professionalism and high-quality customer service whilst maintaining own well-being is essential in today’s organisations. Therefore, we propose a book chapter that focuses on critically elucidating multiple aspects of emotion regulation and emotional intelligence at work, providing an engaging amalgam of theoretical and empirical knowledge.

The chapter will start with a definition of emotion regulation, followed by a short discussion of the existing conceptual controversies related to this topic as well as a brief outline of its importance in work settings (e.g. effects on work behavior, job performance, team effectiveness, job satisfaction and other work-related outcomes) to set the scene for the main body of text. Relevant signposting will also be provided at the beginning of the chapter, so the structure is clear and logical.

Both perspectives on emotion regulation will be discussed in the chapter. Moreover the emotion regulation will be presented in the context of the job performance of employees. On the other side, leadership perspective on regulating emotions will be provided. Leadership behavior is crucial for the job satisfaction and employee commitment. Some leaders with the disruptive behavior have negative impact on subordinates and overall organizational climate. Such leaders are example of toxic leadership.

The topic of toxic leadership in the context of organizational behavior will be presented in aspects to how the toxic leader can influence on subordinates with his behavior. Any leader who wants to be successful should be inspiring, motivating and the best example for the team. What for? What does it mean to be a leader? Moreover, why it is important? Answers to these questions give a huge amount of sciences: social psychology, philosophy, pedagogies, economics etc. In classical management, leadership is the ability to influence individuals and groups of people to encourage them to work and achieve goals. However, not all leaders are motivating and inspiring. On the contrary, some of leaders provoke fear and are disruptive for the organization.

1.1 Types of Toxic Leadership Behavior will be also Discussed in the Context of Work Place Harassment

Workplace violence in all its forms is a topic gaining increased popularity due to its extremely adverse impact on matters such as individual job performance and team effectiveness, mental well-being and job satisfaction, turnover intents and many others. Therefore, after introducing the topic and stressing its importance by outlining existing statistical evidence and multiple negative consequences of these social phenomena, clarification will be made that distinguishes each of the above concepts and their types. As disruptive leadership behavior is negative for employees and other staff in the company, it is a form of harassment. In this regard, will be presented the work place harassment, job mobbing and its significance for effective relationships on the work. At the end, will be discussed possible strategies to deal with work place harassment and the role of the leader to avoid such practices in the work place.

The main body of text will be divided into two main sections taking a different stance at the matter depending on individual role played within organisations, i.e. employees and leaders’ perspectives

2. Employees’ Perspective on Emotion Regulation

Contemporary jobs and workplaces face employees with various occupational stressors, an important group of which is presented by affective demands at work, i.e. the existing social rules of emotion manifestation also known as ‘feeling rules’ that require individuals to exert sustained emotional effort in order to perform their work-related tasks to the desired standard. However, this involves a process of emotion regulation that can have a profound and sometimes detrimental impact at individual, group (team) and organisational levels.

2.1 Feeling Rules, Emotional Labour and Their Outcomes at Work

Feeling rules (also called ‘emotional display rules’) as originally defined by Hochschild (1979) “govern how people try or try not to feel in ways appropriate to the situation” (p. 552). As such, they are socially constructed and represent social norms that differ according to the particular context, especially at work. Thus, for example, in military settings, it may often be considered inappropriate for employees to display emotions associated with happiness or joy, whereas in customer facing roles, the latter are expected from staff in all their interactions with clients despite their actual feelings or moods. This is the reason why, in many cases, feeling rules may lead to affective dissonance due to the emotional demands evoked by social interactions at work and the arising necessity for individuals to manage their real emotions in order to maintain a socially acceptable behavior in professional settings (Mishra, 2007). The latter results in a phenomenon called ‘emotional labour’, which has been defined as “a process that includes (a) explicit emotional requirements (i.e. display rules) and (b) the effortful strategies needed to meet those requirements (i.e., emotion regulation)” (Diefendorff and Gosserand, 2003, as cited in Grandey and Sayre, 2019, p. 1). As such, emotional labour is characteristic not only of customer facing service delivery roles but of any workplace due to the existing social norms, requiring ‘professional’ behaviour in the form of a socially acceptable demeanour and display of job-appropriate emotions.

Emotional labour has been explored in various contexts and through the lens of opposing theoretical models to consistently report predominantly negative outcomes for individuals, their performance indicators and well-being at work (e.g. Ogunsola et al., 2020; Pandey and Singh, 2016; van Dijk and Kirk, 2008). Even though in the short term, emotional labour can assist employees in achieving their professional goals and completing their tasks (Lazányi, 2010), the prolonged attempts to align own emotions to the organizationally accepted feeling rules have been found to adversely affect occupational stress levels (Modekurti-Mahato et al., 2014) and the resulting burnout state of employees with its dimensions of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization / cynicism and diminished personal accomplishment (Ha et al., 2021), which consequently has a harmful impact on the effectiveness of their work (Kamassi et al., 2019). Scholars have tried to explain these effects through the lens of multiple underpinning theories and although the possible interpretations vary a lot, according to a literature review conducted by Lee and Madera (2019), the most common models seem to be the conservation of resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll, 1989) and the affective events (AE) theory (Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996). On the one hand, constant inauthenticity at work requires individuals to continuously exert effort to cope with own emotions, which can be energy consuming and can threaten their energetic resources, so based on the propositions of the COR framework (Hobfoll, 1989), employees may perceive the process of emotional labour as stressful and emotionally exhausting and therefore engage in self-preservation behaviours such as reduced personal accomplishment, job withdrawal, presenteeism, absenteeism or even turnover intentions (Fu et al., 2020). This explanation appears plausible given the cumulative ego depletion effects of situations demanding willpower (such as emotion or behavior regulation) as established by Baumeister et al. (1998), according to whom if not restored properly via positive affects, individuals’ capacity for self-control diminishes over time and this has a negative impact on subsequent behaviours requiring further self-regulation. On the other hand, the AE theory posits that behavior is guided by emotions (Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996) and when certain events at work elicit affects, which are incompatible with the organizationally desired emotions, this influences work attitudes such as job satisfaction and consequent behaviours such as job performance. Even though the described theoretical models propose different pathways for the development of the aforementioned negative effects of emotional labour, the integration of their assumptions can provide a credible explanation for the reported occupational outcomes.

To counteract or alleviate the adverse effects of emotional labour, employees engage consciously or subconsciously in coping strategies that can be clustered into two main categories, namely: surface acting, i.e. hiding or faking emotions to display a situation appropriate affective state, and deep acting, i.e. modifying own emotions to match expressions (Grandey and Sayre, 2019). Although some scientists argue that due to the multidimensional nature of the emotional labour construct, important aspects are missed in this classification such as the display of genuine emotions, the intensity, frequency and variety of emotional manifestation or the duration of interaction (Choi and Kim, 2015), most research has adopted a reductionist approach focusing only on the two coping strategies of surface and deep acting. As a result, there has been conflicting evidence of the effectiveness of each of these strategies in terms of various individual, team and organisational outcomes (e.g. Cox, 2016; Hu and Shi, 2015; Huyghebaert et al., 2018). Thus, for example, although surface acting has been significantly positively associated with burnout (Jeung et al., 2018), other authors report an inverse relationship between these variables (Maxwell and Riley, 2017) and a longitudinal study even discovered a possible causal relationship, whereby surface acting is actually used as a mechanism to cope with burnout symptoms and is not considered a prerequisite for the latter (Fisher, 2019). The contrasting findings are not that obvious with regards to the effects of deep acting, where this strategy seems to have either no association with occupational outcomes such as burnout and job satisfaction (Fisher, 2019; Maxwell and Riley, 2017) or even a positive impact on them (Humphrey, 2021), although there are still studies indicating controversial results, e.g. that deep acting can negatively affect organisational commitment (Ogunsola et al., 2020b) but can increase team members’ task performance (Zhao et al., 2020). Moreover, comparative research is inconclusive as to which strategy has more adverse effects on mental wellbeing (Biron and van Veldhoven, 2012; Hori and Chao, 2019; Lu et al., 2019), though Milyavsky et al. (2019) argue that cognitive reappraisal associated with deep acting can be more beneficial in that regard and it is only the difficulty of implementing it that makes people resort to surface acting. The lack of irrefutable answers to the question of effectiveness of surface and deep acting can be attributed to the existence of numerous factors that influence the above-mentioned relationships (e.g. Gracia et al., 2019; M.-S. Lee et al., 2017; Pătraş et al., 2017; Wessel and Steiner, 2015) with emotional intelligence and personality traits such as self-efficacy and type A behavior pattern regarded as the most commonly explored moderators (Jeung et al., 2018) along with social support (Ha et al., 2021), coworker and leader-member exchange (H. Zhang et al., 2018), job position and climate of authenticity (L. Lee and Madera, 2019) as well as the peculiarities of collectivist and individualist cultures (Humphrey, 2021).

Despite the lack of sufficient empirical evidence and understanding of the impact of surface and deep acting, there are some practical solutions to the problem of feeling rules and emotional labour at work, including innovative but well-established approaches based on the idea of psychological flexibility (Biron and van Veldhoven, 2012; Lamb, 2018; Sarabia-Cobo et al., 2021) and taking a predispositional stance at the topic as suggested by Goldenberg et al. (2016). Psychological flexibility can be defined as “being able to contact the moment as a conscious human being more fully as it is, not as what it says it is, and based on what the situation affords, persisting or changing in behavior in the service of chosen values” (Hayes et al., 2013, p. 8). Serving as the main goal of the popular Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Harris, 2019), psychological flexibility with its inherent mindfulness and acceptance of negative thoughts and emotions allows individuals to deal with the tension caused by emotional labour via conscious cognitive reappraisal and focus on personal values. If combined with the process model of group-based emotion regulation, emphasizing the importance of individuals’ self-categorization as members of a group and the emotions derived from circumstances considered pertinent to the group (Goldenberg et al., 2016), these approaches have the potential to change personal responses to emotionally demanding situations at work and significantly improve the effectiveness of emotion regulation processes.

2.2 What Could Hamper Effective Emotion Regulation? Workplace Bullying, Mobbing and Harassment

A consequence or sometimes antecedent of emotional labour can be found in aggression at work, which takes different forms – bullying, mobbing and harassment (Kim et al., 2018). Workplace violence in all its forms is a topic gaining increased popularity due to its extremely adverse impact on matters such as individual job performance and team effectiveness, mental well-being and job satisfaction, turnover intents and many others. Therefore, after introducing the topic and stressing its importance by outlining existing statistical evidence and multiple negative consequences of these social phenomena, clarification will be made that distinguishes each of the above concepts and their types. This will be followed by a critical description of theoretical models underpinning workplace violence (e.g. the frustration-aggression hypothesis by Dolland et al., 1939; the stressor-emotion model by Spector, 2005; the affective events theory by Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996) that will also explain the latter through perpetrator, victim and bystander’s perspectives (Shockley et al.., 2012). Finally, the discussion will conclude with relevant suggestions for emotion regulation in cases of workplace aggression, including but not limited to Fehr and Gelfand’s (2012) multilevel model of forgiveness at work.

2.3 All the Relationships can be Described as a Form of Work Place Harassment and Mobbing

The unwanted behavior in the work place can take the form of mobbing too. There is a specific difference between harassment and mobbing.  Mobbing can be achieved by using agrressive language or saying a sarcasm towards a coworker, employee. Psychical terror or mobbing in working life means hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic way by one or a number of persons mainly toward one individual. These actions take place often (almost every day) and over a long period (at least for six months) (Leymann, 1990).

At first, definitons of harassment will be provided. The problem should be seen from different perspectives as it is multifaceted. Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is defined as ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’.

Harassment can also be defined as “ if a person engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant characteristic ( sex, race, age, sexual orientation) and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating dignity or creating an intimidating hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone”.  Harassment can happen in many ways, it could be workplace, sexual, religious, racial, psychological, or power. (Equality Act 2010).

The Chartered institute of personnel and development presents another perspective for harassment as it is considered against one or more people and may involve single or repeated incidents across a wide spectrum of behaviour, ranging from extreme forms of intimidation, such as physical violence, to more subtle forms such as ignoring someone. It can occur without witnesses, in face-to-face interactions, as well as online. It includes all situations in which there is a tension caused by physical or mental violence on somebody.

In this regard, the authors (White and Hardemo,2002) define three main types of harassment.

  1. Gender harassment: verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of one gender;
  2. Unwanted sexual attention: verbal or physical unwelcome sexual advances, which can include assault;
  3. Sexual coercion: when favorable professional or educational treatment is conditioned on sexual activity cited by (White and Hardemo, 2002). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the US has described two types of sexual harassment; quid pro quo, where a superior makes a threat or a promise for a sexual favour, and hostile work environment, which refers to conduct of a sexual nature, by anyone in an organisation, that interferes with an individual’s work performance. Quid pro quo harassment is actionable after one incident, providing management has known, or should have known, while to establish hostile work environment harassment, the recipient needs to demonstrate that the conduct was offensive, repetitive and frequent cited by (White and Hardemo, 2002).

The work place aggression can take the form of mobbing in the following stages:

  • Stage 1 – the conflict is easy to identify, the conflicting parties are obvious. At this stage, controversy of interests exists but conflicting parties either try to avoid it or do not confess it.
  • Stage 2 – the real conflict is moved to background, “we and the individual” principle (identified patient) . At this stage, the real collusion takes place, as each side tries to dominate.
  • Stage 3 – Victim is fired or transferred to another department or quits job. The result of mobbying is evident as the victim can not continue working in the company and exits it or is being transferred to another department.

In the initial studies made in Sweden by (Leymann ,1996), it was found that 3.5 % of the working population suffered mobbing. Studies made in the USA found that 82 % of employees faced with mobbing behavior had to leave or lost their jobs, 34 % of them left due to health reasons associated with mobbing and 44 % because of the organization’s performance evaluation system, either on their own initiative or through a management decision (quoted by Erturk, Cemaloglu, 2014).

The role of the leader is crucial in solving the situation and preventing mobbing take place.

How to avoid mobbing on the workplace?

At first place, an anti-bullying policy should be implemented according to Paterson, 2019. On first place, the victim needs to stand up and confront and do not let the situation to continue.

In order to prevent bullying, the leadership style should be consultative, supporting.

Sometimes, it is difficult to identify the toxic leader who mocks employees. This might be very successful leader for the management but not for the employees. Once he/she is identified, certain steps should be taken. On the other side, employers should ensure information about workplace bullying, including relevant policies and procedures, is part of new employee inductions.

2.4 What Could Foster Effective Emotion Regulation? Empathy and Work-Related Outcomes

In addition to the external aspects of emotion regulation at work, referring to the feeling rules that exist in every organisation and the resulting process of emotional labour, which can be affected by consequent or preceding cases of workplace violence, there are also internal factors that modulate individuals’ ability to manage their affective states in different contexts and events, and one of them is personal empathic tendencies. Existing definitions of empathy focus on two different dimensions of the concept, which reflect the assumed basic mechanisms for its initial emergence and ontogenetic development. On the one hand, some formulations emphasize the cognitive origin of empathy, linking it to the ability to understand others’ point of view and internal states (Figley, 1995; Ruby and Decety, 2004). Furthermore, perspective taking is segmented into two forms in terms of the adopted perspective, namely first-person, i.e. imagining own feelings in a given situation, and third-person, i.e. imagining others’ feelings in the same situation (Batson et al., 1997). Alternatively, empathy is explained based on an affective path of emergence and defined as an emotional induction and response elicited by the observation of others’ emotions (Mehrabian and Epstein, 1972). However, there is a considerable amount of ambiguity regarding such conceptual interpretation since this aspect of empathy is often decomposed into different components named in various ways. Thus, Miller et al. (1988) determine two facets of affective empathy in terms of its object, namely, emotional contagion (affective resonance, countertransference) and empathic concern (sympathy, compassion). Emotional contagion comprises affective responses towards self, evolving from a process of emotion matching and arousal and provoking experience of emotions similar to the observed actual or perceived affects, while empathic concern refers to responses oriented towards others, described with care for their well-being and substantially different emotions (Miller et al., 1988). However, other scholars express contrasting views, treating affective empathy as identical to empathic concern (Lamothe et al., 2014) or positing that empathic concern stems from emotional contagion (Watt, 2007). In general, most authors apply an integrative approach to the definition of empathy and present both its cognitive and emotional aspects as either overlapping in time (Hoffman, 1984), interacting (Konrath and Grynberg, 2013) or acting in combination with additional critical factors such as the process of identification as a fundamental empathy-inducing mechanism (Watt, 2007) or the one of emotional regulation, implying self-awareness and a distinct delimitation between own and others’ experiences (Decety et al., 2010). Despite the lack of theoretical clarity, this chapter adopts a definition of empathy encompassing one’s ability to comprehend and share others’ states and react to them in a caring manner (Decety and Svetlova, 2012) because such understanding provides a complete view of the related theoretical models and considers empathy as a multidimensional concept (Davis, 1983; Miller et al., 1988).

When explored with regards to emotion regulation at work, the effect of empathy seems to be twofold. Firstly, it can lead to various negative work-related outcomes such as vicarious traumatization (i.e. experiences of trauma occurring in repeated exposure to traumatized individuals, for example, in health care professionals, social workers or police officers), compassion fatigue (i.e. physical and emotional exhaustion caused by continuous caring for others) and burnout (Rauvola et al., 2019). Although the exact mechanism of interaction between empathy and burnout is still unclear (e.g. if their relationship is causal or bidirectional; what the conduit for this relationship is – subconscious identification with a suffering person leading to trauma transmission or emotional contagion due to mirror neurons; etc.) and some scholars even distinguish five separate aspects of the association between these concepts (Picard et al., 2016), theorists posit that empathy can be an antecedent of job burnout and find a solid ground for this statement in the job demands – resources (JD-R) model of occupational stress (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007). According to it, the latter occurs in cases of imbalance caused by job demands exceeding the resources available to an individual to meet them (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007), which, transposed to the concept of empathy, means that individuals with stronger empathic tendencies may perceive higher strain from the emotional demands of their work situations and experience higher stress levels. Research on the topic is still in its infancy and has multiple methodological limitations, including the significant issue of operationalizing empathy without considering its dispositional and situational nuances, which can explain why some quantitative studies report a seemingly controversial negative correlation between the explored constructs (Nuallaong, 2013; Truchot et al., 2011), which corresponds to the neurobiological discoveries of Tei et al. (2014) and suggests that even though empathy can lead to elevated levels of burnout, the latter can gradually lessen empathic experiences and lead to affective withdrawal as a way to cope with overwhelming burnout symptoms (emotional exhaustion and depersonalization).

Conversely, Zenasni, Boujut, Woerner, and Sultan (2012) express the idea that empathic potential can have both an adverse and a mitigating effect on burnout. Indeed, empathic expressions in the workplace have been found to evoke positive emotional experiences and improve psychological well-being (Ferri et al., 2015; Wagaman, Geiger, Shockley, and Segal, 2015), to increase meaningfulness of work (Thory, 2016) and existential/job satisfaction (Singh, 2014; Slocum-Gori et al., 2013), to prompt altruistic behaviours (Schroeder et al., 2015) and strengthen customer relationships (Wieseke et al., 2012) as well as to improve experiences of flow at work (Gill et al., 2018), the latter defined as “a short-term peak experience that is characterized by absorption, work enjoyment, and intrinsic work motivation” (Bakker and van Woerkom, 2017, p. 47). The explanation behind such an inverse impact can be found in the same JD-R model (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007) as by provoking prosocial behaviour and altruism (Klimecki and Singer, 2011) empathy provides different resources to the person displaying it. Examples of such positive outcomes include increased self-efficacy and feelings of closeness and amity (Stamm, 2010), greater appreciation by patients (Zwack and Schweitzer, 2013), amplified sense of mastery and supremacy (Côté et al., 2011) as well as perceiving own behaviour as more meaningful and rewarding (Ekman and Halpern, 2015), although Åström et al. (1991) point out that the progress of care recipients’ health and the sense of return and reciprocity are most motivating for personnel with low empathy levels, therefore, the association between these notions is vague. Nevertheless, from a salutogenic perspective, the mentioned empathy-derived benefits may play a balancing role in the interaction between job demands and resources and, as a consequence, safeguard against burnout (Friedman, 2003; Stamm, 2010).

Despite the conflicting empirical evidence provided so far, there are various interventions that can be implemented to counteract the adverse impact of empathy at work such as a third-person perspective taking training (e.g. Perceptual Positions by Trainers Toolbox, 2021; Empathic Training in Virtual Reality by Bertrand et al., 2018; etc.) or practicing mindfulness in everyday work. Training aimed at developing individuals’ ability to distinguish between first-person perspective taking as occurring during subconscious identification with a person in distress (Cooke et al., 2018) and third-person perspective taking as occurring in impartial observers (Chambers and Davis, 2012) can prove very effective since evidence from intra- and inter-individual differences research shows that affective aspects of empathy and perspective-taking utilize separate neural circuits (Stietz et al., 2019). Previous neuroscientific studies demonstrate that the mirror neural system reflects the signals received during perception of others’ pain and elicits a relevant mimic brain activation within the observer as well as pain-related responses, which, however, are not identical to the ones evoked by first-hand suffering, which means that pain observation can result in empathic concern only (Decety and Lamm, 2006). Nevertheless, observation of others’ distress can activate own corresponding memories automatically and trigger affective resonance within the observer due to a common neural coding creating a shared representations model (Konrath and Grynberg, 2013), which means that if trained to avoid identification with traumatized individuals, employees should be able to deal with such cases without being adversely affected by exposure to trauma. This can be further strengthened by practicing mindfulness as the latter can foster cognitive appraisal and self-other differentiation to preclude the possibility for identification processes, emotional contagion and personal distress (Atkins, 2013).

2.5 Emotion Regulation as an Interpersonal Activity Spanning across Work and Life Domains

As already described, emotion regulation at work is a complex process that is determined and influenced by various factors. To elucidate the matter even in greater depth, the perspective of its exploration can be expanded to incorporate interpersonal influences as well. Thus, for example, both spillover and crossover effects have been discovered among employees from various industries and contexts, which means that daily work enjoyment or other affective states (including burnout) can be transmitted between colleagues (Sanz-Vergel and Rodríguez-Muñoz, 2013) and this emotion transfer can go beyond the work domain to affect family members and individuals in close interaction with the employee (Bakker et al., 2005). Interestingly, stereotypical gender roles seem to play an important role in the crossover process since men’s work stress has been described as influenced by women’s family stress even if the effects of men’s family strain are controlled for (Amstad and Semmer, 2011). These associations are further complicated in cases of blurred work-life boundaries due to working from home – a prevalent feature of many contemporary jobs, especially given the new ‘normal’ established due to the Covid-19 pandemic (International Labour Organisation, 2020). Consequently, a plethora of negative implications have been observed due to workplace telepressure such as decreased psychological detachment from occupational stressors and reduced work engagement (van Laethem et al., 2018), work-life conflict (S. Zhang et al., 2020) and lessened mental health and subjective well-being (Song and Gao, 2018), although there can be multiple benefits of teleworking as well (Bosua et al., 2013) and these are mainly present in employees with “higher perceived personal control over the location, timing, and process of work experience” (Kossek et al., 2009, p. 148), so work-life balance and possible enrichment can be achieved.

On top of the described effects of social interactions on employees’ emotion regulation at and outside work, individual emotions can vary significantly depending on environmental features such as time of day, day of the week, affective events and recovery experiences. Research has established daily fluctuations in emotions that are impacted by normal hormone secretion induced by daylight changes (Gloster et al., 2017), which can lead to mood swings usually starting with positive moods in the morning and finishing with more pessimistic and negative moods in the evening (English and Carstensen, 2014) and is further influenced by seasonal changes in bright daylight exposure (Adamsson et al., 2018). Of course, this is a very simplistic representation of the way emotions shift throughout the day since it does not take into consideration various factors such as one’s chronotype, i.e. biologically determined preference for morning or evening activeness, which along with individual’s sleep behavior have the potential to partially counteract the effects of hormone secretion (Bauducco et al., 2020; Brückmann et al., 2020). Moreover, emotions can vary throughout the week too, and even though research is still inconclusive in this regard, there is some evidence to suggest the prevalence of negative moods at the beginning of working weeks and positive moods towards the end of the working period and on non-work days (Ryan et al., 2010; Stone et al., 2012). The detected trend can be modified if put in the context of affective events and diary studies convincingly show that daily experiences can influence moods on subsequent days (Kempen et al., 2019; Totterdell and Niven, 2014), including altering moods in non-work periods due to positive or negative work-related rumination (Mullen et al., 2020).

Finally, all effects described so far can be exacerbated, mitigated or amplified by experiences of recovery from work stressors. Despite the existing debate around the effectiveness of recovery experiences, i.e. whether rest can have a restorative effect only if done passively via relaxation (Meijman and Mulder, 1998) or the benefits can be achieved via active engagement in pleasurable and/or challenging activities that allow for recovery of loss resources and building new ones based on socialization or non-work related learning (Geurts and Sonnentag, 2006), it is argued that what is most important in this process is individual control during leisure time and the opportunity to mentally disconnect from work (Sonnentag and Fritz, 2007). Indeed, the mediating role of psychological detachment from work on the relationship between recovery experiences and various occupational outcomes has been consistently proven and best practices in this respect recommend allowing employees more autonomy on the timing, duration and nature of their respite (Germeys and de Gieter, 2018; Niks et al., 2017).

3. Leaders’ Perspective On Emotion Regulation

Everything mentioned about employees’ emotion regulation refers to organisational leaders as well, although their roles add another layer of complexity to the topic – the fact that they are responsible for regulating not only own but others’ emotions at work too. In order to achieve the latter, individuals in managerial positions need a specific skillset, which will be described below.

3.1 What Makes a Good Leader? Contemporary Leadership Theories

Traditional understanding of leadership ascribes success in this role to personal attributes such as charisma and personality traits with various attempts to define the latter but no actual agreement as well as to leadership behaviours that can motivate employees to perform to their best (Benmira and Agboola, 2021). In contrast, contemporary views on the topic adopt a contingency approach, claiming that effectiveness of leadership is determined by the characteristics of both parties involved (the leader and the led) and of the specific situation they are in (the context) (Benmira and Agboola, 2021). One such theory can be found in the identity leadership model, which posits that leadership is “a group process generated by social categorization and prototype-based depersonalization processes associated with social identity” (Hogg and Terry, 2000, p. 1).

Identity leadership builds upon previous psychological and sociological models, including the social identity theory (Tajfel et al., 1979), which postulates that individuals form their sense of self based on the groups they belong to (e.g. family, work, social class, etc.), and the self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1994), which explains the process of self-identification with a group and some consequent behaviours such as conformity, polarization, stereotyping, etc. Thus, identity leadership assumes that successful leaders are those who focus on their relationship with followers and are able to craft an effective group identify (Steffens et al., 2021). The latter is achieved on the premises that these leaders are seen as representative of the group (not a typical member but one who embodies everything that the group strives for in terms personal qualities), act in the best interest of the group (not pursuing their own agenda or the interests of another group) and provide lived experiences to encourage followers to adopt group values (or at least, the leader’s idea of these values) (Haslam and Reicher, 2016). Based on the leader-identity-transfer model (van Dick and Kerschreiter, 2016), some important practical aspects of the process of instilling a group identity refer to leaders’ personality and role modeling behaviours as well as communication centered around the sense of us (including the actual use of the pronoun “us” much more than of the pronoun “I”), the existing group norms, values and goals and the wellbeing of all group members. To further strengthen individuals’ sense of belonging and commitment, identity leaders view their followers as partners (Reicher et al., 2005), encourage participation in decision making and emphasize collective efficacy (Mascarenhas et al., 2018) as well as demonstrate strong political skills (Hou et al., 2021). If combined with the notion of servant leaders (Rachmawati and Lantu, 2014), postulating that successful leaders focus less on their organisation and more on their subordinates (i.e. on improving their wellbeing, knowledge, skills and independence), these can form an effective mechanism for exerting interpersonal influence to manage others’ emotions and behaviours at work and refer to the bright side of leadership.

3.2 The Bright Side of Ladership: Emotional Intelligence, Compassionate Communication and Psychological Safety

Further to the discussion of contemporary models for effective leadership, several other factors can be pointed out as contributors to successful interpersonal affective management performed by organisational leaders. One of the most important factors in that respect refers to leaders’ emotional intelligence (EI), which in broad terms can be defined as the “ability, capacity, skill, or self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups” (Serrat, 2017, p. 329). Although there have been a lot of debates around the EI concept and its validity (e.g. Locke, 2005, and Mavroveli et al., 2007), leaders’ ability to correctly recognize and react to own and others’ emotions has been irrefutably associated with improved self-esteem and wellbeing of employees (Johar et al., 2012), increased trust and perceptions of supervisors’ loyalty, integrity, receptivity, promise fulfillment and availability (Knight et al., 2015) as well as enhanced teamwork (Prati et al., 2003) and organisational performance (Supramaniam and Singaravelloo, 2021). In this regard, Goleman (2011) ascertains four main EI-related fundamentals of effective leadership, namely emotional self-awareness, self-management (including the ability for emotional self-control, adaptability, achievement and positive outlook), social awareness (including empathy and organisational awareness) and relationship management (comprising inspiring leadership, influence, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration). Goleman’s (2011) performance model of EI has received a lot of research support, due to which it has been widely adopted in practice and lies at the basis of some popular integrative models such as the process-oriented EI leadership theory by Allen et al. (2012).These authors claim that successful leadership is “a combination of cognitive processes, personality traits, behaviors, and competencies that interact with one another” (Allen et al., 2012, p. 183) and propose three factors and 21 capacities of EI leadership, namely:

  • Context – environmental awareness and group savvy;
  • Self – emotional self-perception, honest self-understanding, healthy self-esteem, emotional self-control, authenticity, flexibility, achievement, optimism, initiative;
  • Others – empathy, citizenship, inspiration, influence, coaching, change agent, conflict management, developing relationships, teamwork, capitalizing on differences.

From a transactional point of view, the above can be linked to the process of communication between leaders and their followers, where two concepts stand out – compassionate leadership and employee voice. Both of these are considered essential for moderating others’ emotions at work and link back to the ideas of identity and servant leadership. Compassionate leaders are those deeply caring for their followers and capable of interacting with them with integrity, empathy, accountability, authenticity, presence and dignity (Shuck et al., 2016). This involves “a leader’s ethically-based actions that empower, engage, and enable associates to become the best versions of themselves as those individuals create long-term value, deliver great service to customers, and benefit society” (Caldwell and Atwijuka, 2018, p. 5). By leading with compassion, such individuals manage to establish nurturing, positive and highly motivating relationships with their subordinates further characterized by improved decision making, problem solving and performance (Papadopoulos et al., 2021; Poorkavoos, 2016). Compassionate leaders are inclusive, respectful and collaborative in their approach to management and create a psychologically safe environment for voicing ideas and discerning opinions (Uğurlu and Ayas, 2016) – the latter considered an essential antecedent to organisational engagement and influencing employees’ emotions and behaviours (Ruck et al., 2017).

3.3 The Dark Side of Leadership: Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism

Finally, to consider both optimistic and pessimistic accounts of leadership, the chapter will discuss the topic of dark-side leadership in its forms – narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, also referred to as the “Dark Triad” (Paulhus and Williams, 2002). Definitions will be presented, clarifying that narcissistic leaders tend to view others as inferior to themselves, often being insensitive and hostile towards others; psychopathic leaders (with a high degree of hubris) tend to have excessive pride in themselves, and are overly confident with regard to their knowledge, skills and abilities, and individuals who score high on Machiavellianism tend to be cunning, manipulative and will use whatever means necessary to gain political power (Baumeister et al., 2003). Along with a critical analysis of the dark-side leadership traits and categories, attention will be paid to the destructive impact that such leaders can have on organisations as a whole and employees in particular. In this regard, a special case will be presented, referring to the relationship between narcissistic leaders and subordinates with narcissistic victim traits as well as other followers (Camm, 2014), underlying the importance of satisfaction of basic psychological needs to successful interpersonal emotion regulation. Finally, aiming at maximizing the beneficial effect of the chapter to various readers, different strategies to deal with dark-side leaders will be outlined.

Any leader who wants to be successful should be inspiring, motivating and the best example for the team. What for? What does it mean to be a leader? Moreover, why it is important? Answers to these questions give a huge amount of sciences: social psychology, philosophy, pedagogies, economics etc. In classical management, leadership is the ability to influence individuals and groups of people to encourage them to work and achieve goals.

Leaders are needed in every company. It is defined by the communication to their staff, the verbal and nonverbal language used in each specific situations. Good leader build trust among (Weberg and Fuller, 2019). The style of the leader can be described by the way behaviourthe working style and the impact on the followers (Weberg and Fuller, 2019).

According to Lipman-Blumen (2010), “Toxic leadership refers to a process in which leaders, by dint of their destructive behaviour and/or dysfunctional personal characteristics, inflict serious and enduring harm on their followers, their organisations and non-followers alike”. Toxic leadership is a very common behaviour. In fact, a Life Meets Work survey (2017) found that 56% of employees between the ages of 18-70 in the U.S., have a toxic leader.

It is important to pay attention to what motivates the toxic leader. According to Milosevic et al., (2020), “the primary intent of toxic leaders is to conceal lack of relevant competence and maintain a position of control, at the exclusion of other organizationally relevant objectives”. To achieve this, they will engage with others with uncertainty and vagueness, and thus interfering with employee’s ability to perform quality work, rather than lead subordinates towards destructive goals, as do destructive leaders. The study also suggests that the toxicity of the leader will depend on the consequences and effects of their actions on the organization.

However, what happens if a leader is not able to perform his task to motivate, inspire, lead people, but provokes fear and distrust. Then the leadership has a negative meaning and is known in Organisational behavior as a “toxic leadership”.

Leadership can be described as a method of socially influencing people to follow ones’ way. The good leader is showing the way, telling how work should be done, by giving best example to his or her followers. The leader is mentoring and supporting the team to get close to the aim and the success is due to collective efforts of the team. A toxic leader, on the other hand, refers to an individual or person who is controlling and manipulating other people in order to achieve his goals. Toxic leaders are poisonous for the staff and the company as they are narcissists, do not care for the company or the staff. They pursue their own interests as they are interested only in their well being. Besides this they are harmful for the organization and the society as this type of leadership is destructive by its nature.

As Kellerman, 2007 says, toxic leaders in society is often to be driven by the need for self-control, self-awareness and the courage to lead people in the right way. They are motivated only by self-interest as they are said to care only for themselves.

Toxic managers exercise power through the fear as annoy and manipulate others and are dominant over subordinates. In all of the situations, such leaders believe to be the most competent, as neglect others and do their best to prevent others from development in the company. To sum up, toxic leaders are self-motivated, violent and following their own interests and goals by living in a world of their own and are unable to meet the needs of society because they are focused on their own (George, 2004)

Being a toxic leader affects staff and organizational climate in the company. A study of the Manchester Business School (2017) among more than 1200 employees in different industries shows that toxic leadership leads to job dissatisfaction, psychological distress, and depression among subordinate employees.  Having a toxic leader in the organization is causing  distress for employees (Hadadian and Zarei, 2016). As a consequence, toxic leadership increases the intention of the employees to exit (Reyhanoglu, 2020).

Working with such a leader is having negative affect on other employees as people can not be productive as they are afraid of (Kiliç and Gunsel, 2019). Besides, the loyalty of staff falls and they lower their organizational commitment, which leads to instability in the workplace (Silva, 2020).

Under such power, workers have two options: either adapt or leave and this tends to put reps with a choice. Whether they choose to stand their ground and confront the first mover, which could lead to job loss, or to disregard their individual ethics and pursue leader in his or her disruptive behavior. At this point, they think about what will happen to the organization if this tendency persists for a long time, what will be ultimate consequences for the representatives and the organization as a whole.

As discussed already the nature and its effects on followers before, here the types of toxic leadership will be presented. There is a variety of classifications on toxic leadership but the most possible that can be met are here.

The most popular is the narcissistic leader. As it comes from its name, it is a leader who wants to be admired, very selfish. Such leaders want badly to succeed and is ready to abuse his power and people in order to progress in the career in the company (Schmidt, 2008). Such leaders want the others to admire them.  This is typical for leaders with a high need of power, as their need for power and their conviction that the group or organization must thrive, often inspires loyalty and security for his followers (de Vries, 2004).

Williams (2002) defines narcissism as an extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them. The influence of a narcissistic leader can be detrimental to the company, as such leaders are interested only in pursuing their own interests rather than the needs of the company. The problem is that being narcissist, the leader destroys the contributions of other staff. In this case they will neither admire nor respect him as a leader as they are afraid of him only. Such leader can make others feel inferior, with a low self-esteem, and doubt themselves (Williams, 2005).

The next is the  callous leader who does not care about his followers needs and wants and “lacks empathy or concern for his followers and has no desire to hear what they may have to say” (Williams, 2005).  Not only lacks empathy but also abuses and is harsh to the staff (Williams, 2005)

Another toxic type is presented by the controlling leader . Such a leader is hazardous for all company as is uncompromising and demanding with subordinates (Blatnic, 2021). A controlling leader micromanagers, having no trust in others. Such a leader does not trust others, can not delegate responsibility to others and tries to control results by taking everything on themselves (Rihcards, 2018). Being a perfectionist and believes that the only way to achieve the certainty and efficiency is looking for is to make the decisions himself (Whicker, 1996).

Toxic leaders can be corrupt. Such leader is very good at cheating, manipulating others for his own interests (Kellerman, 2004). Like the callous type of leader does not care or show empathy towards his followers needs and wants. What is more, corrupt leader is even worse as is unethical and sometimes illegally perfomrs business (Williams, 2005). Toxic leaders can be also abrasive, being impolite and hostile towards employees. Their bad attitude towards employees leads to worse working relationships, to the point of disrupting the organization (Crawshaw, 2017)

If the leader is incompetent, it is also destructive for the organization. According to Kellerman, 2004, such leader can not be an example to others or made change for the company (Kellerman, 2004) by lacking competence due to lack of leadership skills or staff does not see him as a leader. Lacking a competent leader, the staff will be disorganized and confused. The paranoid leader is other type of toxic leader as is uncertain and anxious of anything or anybody, whether genuine or “imagined”. The side impact of neurotic pioneers are people who deny to let others lead for fear that “they will be better than him or her” (Bergeron, 2017).

Toxic leaders can also cause harm or insult others as the bully leader does by being abusive and insulting to others to make them feel inferior as is jealous that others might outperform him (Whicker, 1996). Such leaders might criticize the best employees to make them feel insignificant by being jealous to them, even to bully his subordinates. It takes the form of a  destructive criticism (Davis, 2016) as such leader believes that managing by fear is a good strategy. This type of leaders often has a devastating lasting effect on staff (Williams, 2005) as their self-worth will be destroyed by the constant humiliating comments and threats.

Toxic leader can be also a hypomanic charismatic leader. Charisma is a feature that some leaders possess. It makes employees involved and ready to follow the example of the leader. It can have also a dark side and be dangerous. (Blatnic, 2021). As Ciampa, (2017) mentioned charisma has a dark side which can drain the strength and potency of a company. Another toxic by its nature and behavior is the neurotic impostor. These leaders believe that  have fooled everybody and that they are not as competent or intelligent as others  and have external locus of control and believe that their success is due to luck, external factors, such as physical attractiveness or likeability, claims Kets de Vries, (2012).

The leader can also not pay attention and be not concerned for the well being of others that are outside of his group or organization but are directly affected by his actions (Kellerman, 2004) and is dangerous for the company and can ruin the reputation of the company by completely ignoring the total cost of their actions in benefit of one specific group.

If the leader lacks self-control (Kellerman, 2004) it is again toxic for the staff and the company. This can be due to his addictions to alcohol or drugs or desires (for power, money, sexual relations, or other). Uncontrollable leader is dangerous as he can not control his behavior and is a bad example for employees.

To sum up, no matter if it s a narcissist leader or neurotic impostor, it affects on the organizational climate. People either will be afraid or get depressed by toxic leader. Some will not be able to tolerate such stress and will quit. If they decide to stay in this company, this will increase the level of stress and make tension between employees and leader.

4. Conclusion

Communication between employees and leaders is crucial for the work productivity, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Employees are motivated and inspired in case of bright, transformational leaders. How successfully leaders manage their emotions has been discussed from leaders and employees perspective in the chapter. Emotion regulation is difficult for most of employees as in the work process are mixed emotions, perceptions and attitudes. Managers should be emotionally intelligent to pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal expression of their staff.  Being emotional intelligent as leader is crucial as empathy can lead to reducing level of stress and involve employees in work.

As it became clear from the identity theory on leadership, successful leaders are those who focus on their relationship with followers and are able to craft an effective group identify. On the other hand, the perceptions of managers can be distorted by their toxic behavior. Toxic types of leadership have been discussed in the context of organizational behavior. Toxic leaders harass employees and are very negative for the organization as a whole.

That is why, an Intelligence behaviour management system can be very helpful. It has been introduced in schools and universities in China. It allows to examine the face expression of each student. Some schools in China have implemented successfully a facial acknowledgment system that can check the facial expression of students and understand their real emotions. This AI can help leaders to make decisions about the level of job satisfaction of each employee.

Another Chinese schools also used headbands to calculate concentration level  so that teachers can monitor children’s interest through a computer, which receives statistics from the headbands.  Lights on the facade of the gadgets likewise show excellent hues for fluctuating focus levels, reporting the body of students if students do not pay attention to them. This tool can help managers select tasks appropriate for each employee, thus increasing their organizational commitment.


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