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Lead Your Team Managing

Will Your Employees Quit When They're Angry?

Will Your Employees Quit When They're Angry?
Credit: Alphaspirit/Shutterstock

While it may seem like anger could spur employees to quit, new research revealed that, in some cases, it actually does the opposite.

According to a study recently published in the Academy of Management Journal, when employees who identify well with their employer face job issues, it often decreases their intention to leave: They are more motivated to stick around and improve their situation, rather than storming out in a fury.

However, when employees' identity with their company is low, they are more likely to quit when job situations anger them, the study found.

The researchers discovered that employees who identify well with their organization tend to blame themselves, rather than their employer, for anger over job issues, because their employer is part of what defines them. Thus, these employees are less likely to respond to these feelings of anger by disengaging, the study found. [See Related Story: Your Best Employee Just Quit ... Now What?]

Jochen Menges, a lecturer at the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School in the United Kingdom and a professor at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, said the study shows that it is ill-advised for employers to broadly characterize specific emotions as beneficial or detrimental to their company.

"The study suggests that company policies that are designed to promote positive emotions or minimize negative emotions may, in fact, not have the intended effect," Menges said in a statement. "So rather than seeking to suppress certain workplace emotions, companies should instead adopt practices that seek to encourage greater organizational identification."

For the study, researchers examined 135 employees in the United States and Europe who worked for a large company in the pilot training and certification business. Over a one-year period, the employees were surveyed about their intentions to leave or remain with the company, and about general organization issues, such as schedule and pay. In addition, the researchers asked the employees about specific matters related to the job, such as events that made them feel good or disrespected at their job, as well as instances that made them feel close to their co-workers.

Six months after their final survey, the researchers analyzed actual staff turnover. They found a significant correlation between the number of employees intending to leave the company and the actual staff turnover.

In addition to anger, the research looked at feelings of guilt and pride. Similar to what they discovered with anger, the study's authors found negatives with positive emotions and positives with negative emotions in some employees. For example, although pride usually encourages employees to remain at a company, for workers lacking work-related identifications, a feeling of pride made them more likely to consider quitting.

The study was co-authored by Samantha Conroy, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, and William Becker, an assistant professor at Texas Christian University. 

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.