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Human Resource Management International Digest

Developing emotional regulation skills in the workplace: A key to job satisfaction among social conflicts
between colleagues
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(2018) "Developing emotional regulation skills in the workplace: A key to job satisfaction among social conflicts between
colleagues", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 26 Issue: 4, pp.19-21, https://doi.org/10.1108/
HRMID-04-2018-0068
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Developing emotional regulation skills
in the workplace
A key to job satisfaction among social conflicts between colleagues

he underlying people risk within an organization can manifest acutely when social

T conflicts damage morale and interrupt smooth productivity being achieved by a


team. Without a foundation of positive and respectful social interactions between
employees, their combined workplace experience can quickly take a self-assessed
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nosedive. Supportive relationships with co-workers are a powerful asset in bringing people
through challenging workloads and in encouraging skill growth, both of which directly
benefit the organization.
A research paper by Hagemeister and Volmer (2018) explores the daily phenomenon of
social conflicts within the workplace and how these translate into impacting the job
satisfaction employees have around their colleagues once the evening arrives. Through
surveying 98 public sector employees in Germany, the study collected daily diary-based
data across five consecutive workdays. Using this, the paper also reveals the importance of
an individual’s emotional regulation ability, since this mental skill can buffer the otherwise
harmful effects that conflict at work produces.

Linking work-based social conflicts with job satisfaction


Job satisfaction, which can be understood as a way of someone judging the appeal of
their own work situation, is a key element of well-being. The financial performance and
reputation of an enterprise can suffer quickly when numerous relationships between its
people become dysfunctional, due to the proliferation of unpleasant internal behavior.
Indeed, health problems naturally ensue where stress-fueled relationships with
emotionally destructive co-workers darken the mood of their days with a sense of
anxiety. This is caused by the human trait of being ill equipped to process conflict, and
so we do not evolve as a species to a position where we get used to it without
experiencing unpleasant effects. These negative effects of social conflict with
co-workers manifest in depression, burnout and fatigue, absenteeism, higher employee
turnover, lower productivity due to greater distraction, and difficulty in concentrating.
Employees in the midst of these effects are highly unlikely to report genuine feelings of
high job satisfaction.
The first hypothesis of this study proposed that daily social conflicts with co-workers
would result in individuals reporting lower levels of job satisfaction with their co-workers
by the time the same evening arrives. To test this, data were gathered from 98 German
employees from 18 different public service organizations, who completed a diary study
that asked them to answer set questions in the morning, at noon, and then in the
evening, for five days running. Information about social conflicts with their co-workers
was collected from the respondents at noon while they were immersed in the workplace

DOI 10.1108/HRMID-04-2018-0068 VOL. 26 NO. 4 2018, pp. 19-21, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 0967-0734 j HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL DIGEST j PAGE 19
habitat. As a comparator, the respondent’s job satisfaction with their co-workers was
then surveyed in the evening, on a scale of 1 to 5, prompted by the open question: At
this moment, how satisfied are you with your co-workers’ behavior?

The resilient power of emotion regulation


Emotion regulation (ER) refers to an internal filtering and decision process that an
individual uses to determine how and when to experience and control their emotions.
The second hypothesis in this study proposed that a person’s disposition to ER would
impact the extent to which they can process and minimize social conflict with co-
workers around noon, by the time they are asked to rate their satisfaction with co-
worker behavior come evening. The respondents were asked in an additional general
survey how often they used ER-type strategies to process social conflict originating at
work. Strategies referred to in the study included staying around people who made
them feel positive about themselves and convincing themselves that they were in a
good mood despite feeling low.
The results reveal that both hypotheses were shown to be accurate. From the first
hypothesis, when employees reported experiencing social conflict during a working
day, it followed that they reported lower satisfaction levels with their colleagues in the
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evening. And following the second hypothesis, the lower the levels of dispositional ER
in an individual, the more negatively they rated their colleague-based job satisfaction in
the evening, after experiencing social conflict at work that day. Therefore, it follows that
employees with higher ER dispositions and capabilities are more equipped to be
satisfied with their work and colleague relationships – even in the event of inevitable
social conflict arising with their team members – and their job satisfaction levels did not
get anywhere near the rock bottom of satisfaction that their low ER disposition peers
reached. As such, dispositional ER proved to have a significant effect in moderating
the interplay between daily co-worker conflict and an individual’s reported job
satisfaction.

Actions to increase well-being


After recognizing the drag that social conflicts have on effective company operations,
as well as the health detriments and anti-social behavior triggers for the individuals they
delegate their work to, practical improvements can justifiably be implemented swiftly
based on this awareness. Encouraging an open style of person-to-person social
support at work, as a way to build a cooperative and trust-based team spirit, is a wise
practical step for human resources practitioners and leaders to spend quality time on.
As an additional success-boosting measure, organizations may directly and
immediately benefit from training their people in effective ER skills, helping them be
more satisfied and productive at work by learning to manage social conflict with a lower
personal impact.
Good inter-colleague social relationships within workplaces hold business value
because they can shift employee job satisfaction along the full positive–negative
spectrum. Social interactions are unavoidable in today’s heavily team-oriented work
environments, meaning, employees can easily find themselves taking negative
thoughts about their work lives home with them. This study uniquely revealed the power
of highly effective ER capability in enabling individual employees to significantly buffer
the negative mental elements of social conflict at work. In turn, extending employees’
ER capability benefits the organization’s productivity and efficiency by minimizing
disruption to the smooth running of role-based teams. Those employees with this elastic
resilience, therefore, become an example of the model behavior that underpins both a

PAGE 20 j HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL DIGEST j VOL. 26 NO. 4 2018


less anxiety-fueled workplace and a well-feeling organization encouraged to succeed
with the least people risk stamping at its embers.

Commentary
The review is based on “Do social conflicts at work affect employees’ job satisfaction?: The
moderating role of emotion regulation” by Hagemeister and Volmer (2018), published in the
International Journal of Conflict Management. This research paper concentrates on Keywords:
Job satisfaction,
the short-term impacts of conflicts at work and how these affect job satisfaction. An
Emotion regulation,
important solution is to take active steps to bolster the emotional regulation capabilities of Diary study,
employees as a vehicle to serve their well-being, so that any emotional effects do not cause Social conflict with
detrimental health problems. co-workers

Reference
Hagemeister, A. and Volmer, J. (2018), “Do social conflicts at work affect employees’ job satisfaction?
The moderating role of emotion regulation”, International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 29 No. 2,
pp. 213-235, available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-11-2016-0097
Downloaded by Macquarie University At 15:24 31 March 2019 (PT)

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