Sauder researchers discussed the dark side of the workplace at an interactive workshop this month, highlighting some nefarious workplace behaviours and stressors, which too often go misinterpreted, unobserved, and oversimplified.

Associate Professor Danielle van Jaarsveld, who co-ordinated the conference, say organizational behaviour research applies to everyone who works, and hopefully can improve employee relations, job performance, and well-being in general.

“A lot of people have very negative experiences on the job,” Van Jaarsveld said. “By uncovering the scope of these problems through our research, we can find some real solutions.”

Two professors and three PhD candidates presented their research and fielded questions, before inviting the audience to chat more informally with the academics. The room at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver was filled with industry professionals. The researchers engaged the managers in a discussion that prompted them to examine their own workplace environments, in order to improve the happiness and productivity of their employees.

  • Professor Sandra Robinson talked about employee ostracism, an “invisible,” yet equally (if not more) harmful behavior than more active and aggressive forms of bullying and harassment. "The absence of behavior can be so powerful," Robinson told the crowd.
  • Associate Professor Danielle van Jaarsveld talked about customer mistreatment of call centre employees, and how mouthy customers often get worse service when employees retaliate – and those employees may be pushed to quit their jobs.
  • PhD graduate Leah Sheppard discussed gender biases and the problematic misconceptions of workplace conflicts between women, from a study she conducted with Sauder Professor Karl Aquino.
  • PhD student Kira Schabram discussed the potential dark side of pursuing one's calling in adverse work conditions. Her research on animal shelter workers found those most passionate about their work can struggle with emotional distress and personal sacrifices.
  • PhD student Marjan Houshmand shared her research on adolescents working in family firms, in terms of their relationship with their parents and their psychological well-being. “The complexities arise when you can’t differentiate between business and family,” Houshmand said.

The workshop preceded the 75th Canadian Psychological Association Annual Convention in Vancouver, and formed the annual institute of the Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists.