Bad Relationships Can Hurt Job Satisfaction and Organizational Attachment

Topic(s): leadership, organizational commitment, turnover
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: Positive and negative workplace relationships, social satisfaction, and organizational attachment. 
Authors: V. Venkataramani, G. J. Labianca, T. Grosser
Reviewed by: Andrea Hetrick

Previous studies on organizational attachment have looked at the role of positive workplace relationships on the attitudes of employees. But, for the most part, they have ignored the impact that negative workplace relationships can have. To examine the influence of negative relationships, the authors (Venkataramani, Labianca, & Grosser, 2013) conducted a study on employees in a midsize manufacturing company and a product development firm.


The researchers found that both negative and positive connections impact workplace relationship satisfaction. This level of satisfaction, in turn, influenced employee feelings of attachment to the organization. The researchers also found that positive networks became increasingly important to worker satisfaction when negative relationships were more central.

The relationships found in this study existed regardless of the employee’s age, gender, part-time or full-time status, education, ethnicity, years worked at the company, location, or number of required work ties. Additionally, the emotions employees often experienced or leadership status did not affect the findings in the study.

To maintain employee satisfaction, the study suggests that companies should encourage positive employee relationships and work to reduce negative relationships. Doing so can ensure that employees will stick around, as satisfaction leads to feelings of organizational commitment.


To aid employee satisfaction, the authors suggest managers should:

  1. Support informal get-togethers among co-workers.
  2. Proactively resolve employee differences early on to decrease the occurrence of negative exchanges in workgroups.
  3. Form a climate of open communication to promote trust and relationship building.
  4. Adjust the workflow and communication arrangements in workgroups so that workers with poor relationships do not work together.

The authors also propose three ways for employees to increase their own satisfaction levels:

  1. Work on fostering positive connections as opposed to socially withdrawing when negative relationships exist.
  2. Stop negative relationships when they begin to form, and before they affect promotion and other growth-related opportunities.
  3. Use negative relationships as feedback to bring about personal change.

Venkataramani, Vijaya & Labianca, Giuseppe & Grosser, Travis. (2013). Positive and Negative Workplace Relationships, Social Satisfaction, and Organizational Attachment. Journal of Applied Psychology99(3).