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“Emotional audits” help managers deal with “toxic emotions”



The need for emotional audits is greater now than ever given the increasing reports of stress in the workplace and the need to pinpoint what these reports really mean, argues Dr Rob Briner, Reader in Organisational Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London.

Briner believes that regular emotional audits may help managers deal with “toxic emotions” in the workplace. “The insensitive or incompetent behaviour of managers and colleagues can often cause ordinary negative emotions to become toxic. This is likely to affect many employees across all types of organisations. Emotional audits may help reveal where the source of toxic emotions lie,” said Briner.

“Given employees’ own aspirations and the demands made on them by their employer it is inevitable that negative emotions occur. However, it seems to be too often the case that organisations mishandle these emotions and they become toxic,” Briner continued.

“Many leaders create negative emotions which can affect employees, customers and clients. All react very differently depending on their circumstances. It is therefore essential to understand the situation
from the individuals’ point of view,” he said.

Briner was joined by Dr Tina Keifer, Visiting Professor in the Organisational Behaviour and HR Division, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia at the national conference of the CIPD in a seminar ‘Toxic Emotions at Work’.

Dr Kiefer argued that a failure to handle emotions sensitively results in toxic emotions that can potentially cause much harm to the organisation. “HR must ensure managers are trained to be sensitive to their employees emotions. This includes active listening, asking questions and the ability to identify behaviours that are likely to create toxic emotions.”

“Negative thoughts and feelings can affect the individual’s professionalism and trust in the organisation. Toxic emotions drain vitality from individuals, teams and eventually, the whole organisation because they interrupt the workflow,” Kiefer continued. “A failure to recognise the symptoms of toxic emotions could lead to higher labour turnover, relatively poor health and low levels of creativity and performance.”

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