Modern offices aren’t all ping-pong tables and 3 p.m. happy hours, and modern workers aren’t all happy. That’s bad news for nine-to-fivers, but it might not be a problem for their bosses. A recent study from the Cambridge Judge Business School flips the idea that happy workers are better workers on its head: Negative emotions aren’t bad for business, they can actually make it better.
In a paper published in the Academy of Management Journal, Cambridge researchers explain that when people are angry over a job situation, but really identify with their company, this feeling actually decreases their intention to quit. Anger tends to motivate employee to actually stick it out and help the business improve. Basically, it’s hard to get angry if you don’t give a shit. Scarface’s epic “Fuck you, you’re cool” quit rant in Half Baked is anthropologically accurate. He’s not quitting because he’s pissed. He’s quitting because he’s got a fledgling drug dealing business and no longer gives a damn. Life is like that.
The take away for bosses here is that anger in the workplace shouldn’t be suppressed, assuming it’s coming from employees you want to keep around. If they care enough to get mad, that’s a feeling that could get harnessed for good.
“The study suggests that company policies are designed to promote positive emotions or minimize negative emotions may in fact not have the intended effect,” said co-author Jochen Menges in a statement. “So rather than seeking to suppress certain workplace emotions, companies should instead adopt practices that seek to encourage greater organizational identification.”
Menges and his team came to this conclusion by evaluating 135 employees of a pilot training and certification business for a year. After examining the actual staff turnover rate in regard to the number of employees who had expressed an intention to leave, they found that caring about the company itself — rather than being attached to the type of work in general — was more important when it comes to keeping employees at the workplace.
That’s why it makes sense for self-absorbed Jimmy from That Thing You Do! to quit the band, and why Jerry “Who’s coming with me?” Maguire flips out when he’s forced to leave the company he loves. If someone really identifies with the company they’re employed at, it’s going to take more than a bad board meeting to get them out of the office.
If an employee quits with a cool head, that’s when the company might really be in trouble.