Emotional Volatility at Work

Topic(s): job performance, personality, stress
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (2011)
Article: Stability, change, and the stability of change in daily workplace affect
Authors: D.J. Beal, L. Ghandour
Reviewed by: Larry Martinez

Have you ever noticed how some people are just more emotionally volatile than others? For example, consider a coworker who comes to work happy as a clam one day and down in the dumps the next. Researchers call this affect spin, which refers to an individual characteristic that reflects the extent to which people experience more than one emotion over time. Beal and Ghandour (2001) examined this concept with positive and negative emotions and task motivation in the midst of a major natural disaster: Hurricane Ike.


These researchers examined several different aspects of emotional reactions. First, they found support for a weekly cyclical pattern such that emotions are most positive during the weekend and most negative around Wednesday. Also, for people who were high in affect spin, (1) there was a relationship between task motivation and positive emotions and (2) motivation on one day influenced positive emotions next day. This was not the case for those low in affect spin. Finally, those high in affect spin experienced more negative emotions after Hurricane Ike than before.


The results show that most employees experience a predictable pattern of emotions throughout the week. In addition, some employees are more likely to have stability in the extent to which they oscillate between emotions over time, over and above the weekly cyclical pattern. Finally, some employees will recover emotionally from catastrophes moreso than others. This information can inform workplace human resource management decisions.


Beal, D. J., & Ghandour, L. (2011). Stability, change, and the stability of change in daily workplace affect. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 32, 526-546

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