Socialising with people in work who have emotionally demanding jobs is highly likely to make your job also emotionally demanding through association, according to new research from Durham University Business School.
Conducted by Andrew Parker, a Professor in Leadership at the School, alongside colleagues from Microsoft and Aarhus University, the study investigates the link between emotional job demands, work-based social networks, and employee performance over time.
Their findings prove that the old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has a root of truth to it, by revealing that sharing the emotional stresses of work with a colleague can be a positive for the employee with an emotionally demanding job, as doing so provides a buffer to the negative effects of emotional job demands on employee performance.
However, the research also showed that the emotional demands of one person’s job role can easily rub off on others in their work-based social network, causing them to experience similar demands and stresses too.
Professor Parker and his colleagues analysed a case study of over 130 employees at a manufacturing company, surveying them on their work environment and their work-based social networks. Then, supervisors from the same company were asked to answer questions on each employee’s individual performance.
The researchers then used a modelling framework to analyse the employee’s social networks and emotional demands, then compared this to their performance.
The results revealed that, often, not only did socialising with those with emotionally demanding jobs increase a worker’s own emotional demands, but also that the negative effect of high emotional job demands on performance was lower for employees who had more work-based social ties.
“Understanding how employees perform better than each other, despite being in the same roles, has always been a key research question for management. There’s long been talk on the impact of social ties and networks on employee’s performance, and our research shows”, Professor Parker says.
that work-based social ties are a double-edged sword – they both transmit emotional demands, but they can also buffer against the negative effects of emotional demands on employee performance.”
The researchers suggest that job rotation is a tool that managers can use to break apart unproductive work relationships and restructure worker’s networks.
In addition, managers need to think about teams and groups, rather than just individuals, when developing ways in which to decrease the negative outcomes of emotional job demands in the workplace. Professor Parker also suggests that self-awareness or personal effectiveness training can be beneficial in giving employees a greater understanding of how their actions and behaviours can affect those around an individual.