What Leads to Negative Emotions Toward Supervisors?

2 employees discussing work

Recent research (Game, 2008) provides an interesting theoretical explanation for why employee experience negative emotions toward their managers.


The researcher found some support for an exploratory model that says various emotional reactions in employees may be attributed to differences in how supervisory behavior is interpreted by employees. These interpretations may be affected by employees’ long history of psychological attachment over their lifetime and/or their attachment style regarding their relationship with their supervisor. The study’s model wasn’t entirely supported, but findings indicate that further research investigating the relational context of employee-supervisor relationships is worthwhile. This will help us learn more about the nature of employees’ negative emotions.

This study demonstrates that what employees believe, perceive, and expect from their relationships with supervisors may affect the degree to which they feel negative emotions from their supervisory relationship. In addition, the employees’ lifetime of experiences with relationships in general may influence these emotions felt at work.


It is in the best interest of organizations to find a remedy for negative emotions in the workplace, otherwise organizations risk other unfavorable outcomes such as employee turnover, lack of motivation, or workplace deviance. The author suggests that using resources to help develop secure, supportive, and trusting employee-supervisor relationships may be worth the time and money.

Game, A. M. (2008). Negative emotions in supervisory relationships: the role of relational models. Human Relations, 61(3) 355-393.