Toxic emotion events and emotion regulation of middle managers in a call centre
Van Dyk, Monique Isobel
MetadataShow full item record
An increased number of organisations are faced with toxicity among their staff as a result of the ineffective regulation of negative emotions in the workplace (Frost, 2003). In the service industry, and especially in call centres, toxic events and emotions could become a concern, since this work environment is characterised by high levels of stress and time pressure, which may lead to burnout and depression in the long run (Rod & Ashill, 2013). Middle managers working in a call centre environment have to manage others while also being managed themselves; they have the added demand of working a highly stressful and performance-driven environment (Nel & de Villiers, 2004). The above-mentioned events and working conditions in call centres trigger negative emotions in middle managers when they feel that they do not have enough resources to deal with the events (Kiefer & Barclay, 2012). Opitz, Cavanagh and Urry (2015) argue that people have to diminish, amplify or modulate these negative emotions in order to focus on work goals and to ensure effectiveness in the workplace. If this regulation is ineffective, the negative emotions become toxic and place a psychological and emotional burden on the individual. The main objective for this study, therefore, was to explore the emotion events that lead to negative emotions in a call centre environment and to investigate the way in which middle managers regulate these emotions to establish whether the negative emotions and emotion events are toxic. The research was explorative in nature; a qualitative design was used to achieve the research objectives. Participants were invited to participate in the research study on a voluntary basis, and they were selected by means of a purposive sampling method. Criteria that were used in the selection of participants were that participants had to be middle managers who are permanently employed in a call centre. Based on these criteria, a total population of 15 employees was included in the research study (N=15). Qualitative data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews at a call centre in Pretoria, Gauteng. The findings indicated that “non-performance of subordinates” and the conditions in the “work environment” were the emotion events that mostly lead to negative emotions. Other emotion events experienced within call centres included “job demands from top management”, “faulty IT systems” and “conflict”. The mostly reported negative emotions that resulted from these events were “frustration” and “anger”. Although some participants indicated that they employ “situation modification” and “cognitive change” that are effective in regulation negative emotions, most of the participants indicated that “attentional deployment” and “response modulation” were the main manners in which they regulated their negative emotions. The latter are very often ineffective and maladaptive, which indicate that most negative emotions and emotion events that middle managers experience in call centres are toxic. Recommendations were made for application in the organisation as well as for future research.