We dedicate this paper to the memory of Peter Frost who inspired us to explore the topic of toxic emotional experiences and was a tremendous source of support.
Understanding the mediating role of toxic emotional experiences in the relationship between negative emotions and adverse outcomes
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012
© 2012 The British Psychological Society
Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Volume 85, Issue 4, pages 600–625, December 2012
How to Cite
Kiefer, T. and Barclay, L. J. (2012), Understanding the mediating role of toxic emotional experiences in the relationship between negative emotions and adverse outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85: 600–625. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8325.2012.02055.x
- Issue published online: 16 OCT 2012
- Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012
- Received 31 May 2010; revised version received 5 March 2012
Research has demonstrated that experiencing negative emotions at work can have adverse consequences for individuals and organizations. However, little research has explored why negative emotions can be associated with detrimental effects. To address this gap, the authors argue that it is critical to consider how emotions are experienced. Across two field studies (N= 876 and N= 136), the authors investigate the mediating role of toxic emotional experiences (TEEs) in the relationship between negative emotions and adverse outcomes. The three TEEs dimensions (i.e., psychologically recurring, disconnecting, and draining) are examined as well as the composite score. Results indicated that the TEEs composite mediated the relationship between negative emotions and psychological health, attitudes towards the organization, performance, and helping behaviours. Mixed results were found for the three TEEs dimensions. A number of theoretical implications are explored including the differential roles of negative emotions versus TEEs, the distinct effects associated with each of the TEEs dimensions, and the importance of exploring how emotions are experienced at work. Practical implications related to effectively managing negative emotions and preventing ‘toxic' experiences are also discussed.