MartensToxinHandlerASAC.doc

MartensToxinHandlerASAC.doc - ASAC 2003 Halifax Nova Scotia...

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ASAC 2003 Martin L. Martens Halifax, Nova Scotia Marylène Gagné John Molson School of Business Concordia University Graham Brown (PhD Student) UBC Commerce TOXIN HANDLER BEHAVIOUR: AN INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF A NEW MEASURE Abstract: In this article we present an initial empirical investigation of Peter Frost’s Toxin Handler concept. We examine and test a new measure designed to investigate the use of toxin handler behaviours used to alleviate the pains of organizational life. Pain and Compassion at Work Sometimes I know that I am portraying my employer as professionals who care, when they are neither professional nor caring. Employers do not relate to the client at the end of the chain. That becomes tiring and draining, especially if the employer lets you down a lot” Interview Participant Pain pervades the workplace in many forms. Events that occur in people’s lives in and outside of work affect how they feel and how they perform their job (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003). Difficult situations disturb people’s emotional states. In addition to this, many people are exposed to toxic situations at work. The cause can come from many different sources, some intended and some not. Consider the following examples: The acquisition of a smaller company can make employees from both companies feel uneasy as they question their role in the newly shaped organization. A verbally abusive customer can ruin anyone’s day. Abusive, or simply incompetent, bosses are a far too common occurrence (Ashforth 1994; Tepper 2000). Yet, organizations generally function and operate in a relatively undisrupted manner despite these potentially toxic situations. But how do people in organizations process and manage the stress, anxieties, and pain that exist in daily work life? How do organizations continue to function in spite of these difficulties? Researchers recently asked these questions and they suggest that workplaces function because they contain compassionate people. A promising new concept suggested by Peter Frost (Frost, 1999; 2003; Frost and Robinson, 1999) examines both the pain and the compassion found in organizations. He coined the term ‘toxin handler’ 1 to describe a boundary spanning extra-role behaviour where employees help their coworkers deal with pain. These toxin handlers help their colleagues deal with pain caused by others in the organization, yet are also of great support and strength when the pain is external and affecting how the employee feels and performs on their job. Because this is a new concept, little is known about the underlying dimensions of handling toxins and what specific types of helping behaviours might exist. In this article we describe the initial results of an empirical stream of research focusing on toxin handler behaviours and toxin handlers.
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