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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 20, 2017
Canadian Excellence



Business: Organizational Behaviour/Human Resource Management (OB/HRM) Area

Research Tidbit: Toxic Emotions in the Workplace – Why Negative Emotions Can Have Harmful Consequences

New Research from Dr. Laurie Barclay (OB/HRM)

Jan 12/13

Have you ever wondered why some negative emotions can have positive consequences (e.g., when anger fuels you to make a change) whereas other emotions can have harmful consequences (e.g., make you feel burned out or less able to perform)?

New research from Dr. Laurie Barclay (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Dr. Tina Kiefer (University of Warwick) helps answer this question. Their research shows that negative emotions can have harmful consequences when they are experienced as “toxic”.

Toxic emotions occur when negative emotions are experienced as (a) psychologically recurring – the experience weighs on the individual and feels unresolved, (b) disconnecting – the person feels detached from their social network or colleagues, and (c) draining – the experience makes the person feel depleted and/or consumed by the experience.

This research suggests that managers should carefully manage events that can spark negative emotions in their employees and pay particular attention to employees who display ‘toxic’ characteristics to ensure they receive the support that they need to effectively cope with these experiences. This can be done using a three-pronged approach, which includes prevention (e.g., creating policies and cultures that prevent negative events from occurring), intervention (e.g., ensuring that managers have the discretion to show compassion and help employees manage their experiences), and restoration/recovery (e.g., focus people on positive options and ways to ‘let go’ of the toxicity).

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Laurie Barclay (

The full article is available from the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology:

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