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Negative relationships in the workplace: a qualitative study


  • Rachel L. Morrison
  • Terry Nolan


Purpose - The purpose this paper is to expand upon existing knowledge of this important topic by providing an expanded inventory of the causes and consequences of having enemies at work. Design/methodology/approach - Qualitative data were collected from 412 respondents using an internet-based questionnaire with respondents spanning a wide range of occupations, industries and nationalities. Using a structured methodology for handling a large data sample of qualitative responses, emergent thematic categories are identified and explained by means of verbatim text. Findings - It was found that several aspects of the work environment directly exacerbated or created negative relationships which, in turn, negatively impacted respondents' experiences of work. Findings illustrate some strongly held employee expectations of behaviour and felt-obligations defining both formal and informal organisational roles. Research limitations/implications - The findings discussed here emanate only from data emphasising negative relationships at work. A study into other relational factors may provide interesting and important points of comparison as well as serving to overcome the inevitable bias towards the negative within this inquiry. Practical implications - The conclusions present a number of important challenges to employers and managers for anticipating and dealing with negative co-worker relationships. Employees seek an equitable and reciprocal relationship with their organisations. An important lesson for management is that workers expect and depend upon their managers to provide support and assistance in overcoming negative workplace relationships. Originality/value - The data, discussions and conclusions are derived from specific questions which have not previously been expressed in the literatures.

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel L. Morrison & Terry Nolan, 2007. "Negative relationships in the workplace: a qualitative study," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 4(3), pages 203-221, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:qrampp:v:4:y:2007:i:3:p:203-221

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