Today’s labour market is characterized by the increased power of employers. As a result, the working environment becomes more challenging for associates because they are expected to meet the new demands that are constantly being increased. Undoubtedly, this tension affects physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the staff (Richard 2006). This paper is limited to the emotional plane, which resonates with the major topic of today’s management science. Vandevoordt (2016) claims that “the last few decades, increasing attention has been given to the nature and extent of emotional labour” (p. 3). According to Niven (2016), “emotions are short-lasting feeling states about something or someone that influence people’s judgments, decisions, and attitudes about their organization, as well as their performance and how they act towards others” (p. 306). This research proposal stresses the importance of surveying the connection between employees’ age and the level of effective well-being or, alternatively, the strategy of suppressing emotions.
Scholars suggest that even temporal emotional conditions of employees may leave either a positive or a negative imprint on their permanent emotional, mental, and physical health (Peng, Tian, Jex& Chen 2016). At the same time, employers require their subordinates to develop new emotional skills that may be hard to maintain. Consider an example, according to Ward and Price (2016), “two new emotion management techniques are identified: 1) emotional neutrality, and 2) emotion switching”. Both of these strategies require well-developed self-management. Moreover, one should comprehend that these skills are related to emotional suppression, which is a malevolent strategy that is negatively related to the opposite mental condition known as affective-well-being.
Affective-well-being is “the frequency of emotional experiences at work, with higher levels of well-being associated with more frequent positive and less frequent negative emotions” (Peng et al 2016, p. 2). Given this definition, it is natural to suggest that the affective well-being of workers increases employee satisfaction, which is manifested in their performance. In addition, affective well-being is negatively related to high turnover intention (Peng et al 2016). The opposite condition is known as “emotional suppression on employees’ physical strain” (Peng et al 2016, p. 2). Physical strain is highly negative because it results in the development of such health issues as back pain, headache, immunological reactions, and others. Without a doubt, suppressed negative emotions hinder professional and personal growth of an individual. Under these circumstances, the effectiveness of workflow decreases (Peng et al 2016). Therefore, managers should strive to create working conditions that encourage stronger affective well-being and reduce the generation and suppression of negative emotions.
Moreover, Peng et al (2016) accentuate that workers' suppression of negative emotions may partly help to accommodate to the surrounding environment; however, when these negative emotions are hidden deep inside one’s personality, they may turn into issues that can remain latent and unresolved for a long period of time. Nevertheless, unresolved conflicts and dissatisfaction may become the reason of primary and secondary emotional traumas. Simultaneously, the scholars detected that employees were inclined to suppress both positive and negative emotions, which determines the situation with workers’ mental health and general emotional environment in the workplace.
In this regard, the research explains that “emotional suppression entails suppressing either positive or negative emotions, whereas surface acting entails suppressing negative and enhancing positive emotions” (Peng et al 2016, p. 2). Suppressing positive emotions is also a negative tendency. Firstly, this practice prevents people from enjoying their internal and external strengths to the fullest. Thus, “the habitual use of emotional suppression was found to be associated with less frequent experiences of positive emotions, more frequent experiences of negative emotions, worse interpersonal functioning, and poorer well-being” Peng et al 2016, p. 2). Secondly, suppression of positive and negative emotions, or artificial enhancement of positive emotions provide erroneous information to the managerial staff. As a result, collecting deceptive data, leaders struggle to manage their teams effectively.
Huy (2011) accentuates that a frequent cause of negative emotions in the workplace that needs to be suppressed is “devaluation of social identities” (p. 25). This approach stems from the failed desire of humans to be liked and accepted (Zaki& Williams 2013). Human beings, either at work or at other planes, strive to align their behaviours with the recognized external regimes of control. What is more, “social interactions critically depend on the nature of the social relationship” (Netzer, van Kleef&Tamir 2015, p.125). Thus, the emotional stance of a person should be viewed from a broader perspective of how he/she interacts with others (Van Kleef, Homan &Cheshin 2012; Lively & Weed 2014). This explanation means that an endeavour to suppress negative and, sometimes, positive responses is simultaneously advantageous and adverse (Van Kleef 2016).
On the one hand, as social beings, people should accept the norms and patterns of interpersonal communication. In this regard, scholars emphasize that “the most important strategic adaptations for primates, and especially humans, is sociality; we are basically wired to seek helpful connections with others” (Gilbert 2015). On the other hand, suppression leads to negative outcomes at individual and collective levels (Ward & McMurray 2016; Mikulincer&Shaver2010) because “human behaviors are the product of individual agency and social forces operating in specific times and contexts” (Shulman, 2017, p. 18). Finding a balance between these polar approaches is known as emotional intelligence (Austin & O'Donnell 2013). Thus, the manager should master personal emotional intelligence and engage the staff to increase the self-awareness of their feelings and emotional conditions as well as the responses of co-workers (Wargnier 2014).
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Moreover, the ambiguity of the strategy of suppressing emotions is that despite being malevolent, it is crucially necessary for the successful communication with stakeholders (Ward & McMurray 2011). For example, in healthcare industry, counselling and other works skilled employees as well as managerial staff (Haver, Akerjordet, Furunes2013) are obligated to keep their emotions under control because otherwise, their behaviour may cause much harm to clients and result in the development of vicarious trauma in specialists. Thus, defining the negative sizes of suppressing emotions should be targeted to detect the mechanisms that can be deployed to prevent or, at least, reduce the negative implications (Little, Gooty& Williams 2015).
Discussing the relation between age and suppressed emotions, Yeung and Fung (2012) accentuate that older workers are more experienced in different kinds of suppression (withdrawal, denial, etc.). In other words, the positivism of skilled self-management is that it provides greater possibilities for career growth, in particular, due to more professional communication with stakeholders (Yeung&Fung2012). Similarly, Parker and Ohly (2008) state that jobs create the need for finding effective ways of cooperation with other people. This premise may be related to the fact that more experienced workers have already undergone stronger and more prolonged motivation to find a common ground with stakeholders even if it means suppressing emotions.
Linking the maladaptive strategy of emotional suppression in the workplace, Peng et al (2016) suggest that older individuals apply this strategy more often than young and middle-aged ones. Consequently, it is natural to deduce that emotional suppression is positively related to the age variable. This insight implies that physical strain that is related to the suppression of negative and positive emotions tends to become stronger with maturing. Thus, the deterioration of physical health problems in older age may be connected to the enhanced frequency of utilizing this unhealthy coping mechanism.
Besides, the relation between older age and stronger motivation to avoid conflicts may be explained by the fact that older employees have more to lose. In other words, building career, individuals are promoted, rewarded, and paid more than their younger co-workers. These means of influence are strong motivators engaged to suppress the negative emotions and enhance the positive ones (Binnewies, Ohly, Niessen2008). In contrast, non-suppressed negative emotions are typically directed towards customers, with employees trying to affect managers/business owners with the aim of expressing their dissatisfaction with working conditions (Wang, Liao, Zhan& Shi 2011).
Williams and Emich (2014) argue that humour can be utilized as a healthy means of regulating emotional involvement and reflection. This supposition resonates with another study conducted by Niven, Totterdell, Holman, and Headley (2012), which depicts that one’s affective well-being is positively related to personal attempts to improve the well-being of other people around. One of the workable and healthy remedies to succeed with this goal is humour. Thus, managers are recommended to use humour for enhancing the affective well-being of employees. Moreover, leaders are encouraged to construct organizational structure that supports using humour as a means of relaxation and communication. In this regard, it is important to remember that “the occurrence of positive events at work is likely to be related to positive affective states” (Ohly& Schmitt 2015, p. 4). Apart from humour, it is believed that affective well-being can be increased during interpersonal communication if a person is capable of creating a plan of conversation (Ickes, Holloway, Stinson,Hoodenpyle,2006). Besides, one may enhance positive emotions if s/he is able to define positive practices in communication implemented by other people and adopt them to advance personal emotional conditions, thereby increasing the affective well-being of other individuals.
- Hypothesis 1: Younger employees apply the strategy of suppressing their positive and negative emotions less often.
- Hypothesis 2: Young and medium-aged workers (up to 10 years of working experience) can be motivated to conceal their negative emotions and artificially enhance positive ones by receiving a promotion, a salary increase, additional social benefits, or verbal recognition.
- Hypothesis 3: Suppressed emotions comprise greater risks for health and well-being of younger workers whereas older employees enjoy more advantages thanks to this strategy.
- Hypothesis 4: Development of teams is more effective if constructed by leaders; organizational culture encourages the staff to apply alternative and healthier coping mechanisms (humour, prognosis of reactions, constant self-reflections, etc.).
Methods & Materials
The design of study is an eye-to-eye interview with the representatives of different age groups. The method of survey is qualitative research. To ensure that respondents provide informative answers, the sample will be limited to the individuals who have three and more years of full-time employment experience. Besides, to explore the 4th hypothesis, it is appropriate to interview an HR manager who has been working with the same team for more than three years.
To ensure that this study is conducted in the ethical frame, the sample should be informed about the aims of the research. Moreover, the participants will be informed that they can withdraw from the research without an explanation at any stage. Furthermore, the sample should be aware of the design of the study and its results. Besides, the responders’ identities will be concealed to eliminate the likelihood of negative outcomes for these participants.
Anticipating the limitations of the research, it is appropriate to point out that the objectives are characterized by great ambiguity and, thus, the validity of the obtained results is hardly verifiable. To be more precise, when a person is used to suppress emotions, s/he may not realize that at a conscious level. Similarly, it is difficult to detect the level of honesty in the sample's responses. Besides, the ambiguity is related to the fact that suppressing emotions, to a great extent, stems from the organizational culture. That is why, the respondents of the same age may reveal diverse propensity towards the discussed maladaptive strategy. Whereas this peculiarity is predictable, the answers should be structured accordingly. In this regard, it may be necessary to study the working environment of the respondents and their managers in detail to understand the ratio to which individual identity is affected by the collective identity of the sample. Another concern is that this study focuses on the causes and effects of suppressing positive and negative emotions and its connection to the age variable in the employment setting, meanwhile, individuals may learn to apply this unhealthy mechanism at home (Courtright, Gardner, Smith, McCormick& Colbert 2016). In this case, one may observe the adverse manifestations such as physical strain, low productivity, and health issues; hence, this situation is not created at work and may not even resonate with the organizational culture.
Research Gain and Audience
This study can be used as a part or basis of future researches in the field of emotions, identifying management in the workplace. In particular, the results may be utilized to elaborate the effective means of reducing adverse emotional reactions and conditions, which is supposed to increase the general positivism of the working environment and improve the emotional health of its members. What is more, the survey can be informative for managers since it provides important insights regarding the patterns of affective well-being and the suppression of positive and negative emotions. Simultaneously, this study comprises valuable information that can help employees to increase their self-awareness and encourage their self-reflection with the aim of reducing malevolent strategies in interpersonal communication.