Research Uncovers One Emotion that Causes Employee Turnover, Another Contributes to Retention

April 2, 2019 | From the Desk of Nobscot CEO, B. N. Carvin

A paper written a few years back by Tobias Kraemer and Matthias Gouthier explores the roles of emotion in employee turnover, specifically in the high turnover world of Call Centers. They identify two emotions that impact employee retention and turnover.

Transfer employees The first emotion is ANGER. They have discovered that anger causes "emotional exhaustion" which increases intention to leave. Anger includes feelings such as annoyance, irritation, fury and rage and is one of the most common workplace emotions. In the Call Center study, anger inducing events included personal attacks, incivilities, unjust treatment, task interference, unaccomplished work goals, corporate policies and personal mistakes.

Interestingly they found that while the most intense anger comes from customer interactions, anger that is produced from supervisor interactions causes stronger negative emotions. The reasoning is that employees become used to negative interactions from customers. Anger that arises from supervisor's actions are less frequent but carry much more weight with employees.

Conversely, the emotion that leads to employee retention is PRIDE. Their research confirms that feelings of pride increase organizational commitment thereby reducing turnover intentions.

Pride producing events include:

- performance acknowledgement
- company success
- recognition of potential
- "socioemotional" feedback

Of all the pride producing events, performance acknowledgement was the most important. This can come from customers, supervisors, co-workers or the employees themselves. Like with anger, acknowledgement from supervisors was shown to be the most important source of pride.

Some of the suggestions provided for reducing anger include regular open discussions between managers and employees and other methods to detect what angers employees. Exit interviews can be used in this way as well. Exit interviews can determine the factors that produce enough anger to have actually caused someone to leave rather than create a stated "intention" to leave which might dissipate over time once the anger is forgotten.

To increase pride the researchers suggest offering active feedback and reward outstanding behavior. Since self-acknowledgement is also critical, providing employees with benchmarks with which to evaluate their own performance can be helpful. Acknowledgement from co-workers can be achieved through creating an environment of team spirit and team recognition. At Nobscot, in our weekly staff meeting, we go around the room and each employee has the opportunity to provide kudos to any of their colleagues for a job well done.