When lending an ear turns into mistreatment: An episodic examination of leader mistreatment in response to venting at work

Christopher C. Rosen, Allison S. Gabriel, Hun Whee Lee, Joel Koopman, Russell E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Venting—an emotion-focused form of coping involving the discharge of negative feelings to others—is common in organizational settings. Venting may benefit the self via the release of negative emotion, or by acting as a catalyst for changes to problematic work situations. Nonetheless, venting might have unintended consequences via its influence on those who are the recipients of venting from others. In light of this idea, we provide a theoretical explanation for how leaders in particular are affected by venting receipt at work. Drawing from the transactional model of stress, we theorize that venting tends to be appraised as a threat, which triggers negative emotion that, in turn, potentiates deviant action tendencies (i.e., interpersonal mistreatment). Yet, our theory suggests that not all leaders necessarily experience venting in the same way. Specifically, leaders with higher need for cognition are less influenced by surface-level cues associated with others’ emotional expressions and find challenging interpersonal situations to be less aversive, thereby attenuating the deleterious effects of receipt of venting. In an experience sampling study of 112 managers across 10 consecutive workdays, we find support for our theoretical model. Altogether, our findings provide insight into the costs incurred when leaders lend an ear to those who vent, which can result in negative downstream consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
JournalPersonnel Psychology
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Keywords

  • experience sampling
  • interpersonal mistreatment
  • negative affect
  • venting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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