It’s Not How You Say It, But What You Say: Communication Valence in the Workplace and Employees’ Reactions

Abstract

Social information processing theory argues that information available from coworkers and the general social environment in the workplace are related to employees’ attitudes and behaviors. Focusing on valence of coworker communication content (i.e., positive or negative conversation about work), we proposed and tested two models: first, communication content or valence of what employees talk about at work will be related to their burnout, and second, burnout will be related employees’ counterproductive work behavior (CWB). Based on social role theory, we proposed that gender would moderate the relationship between contents of communication and burnout, as well as between burnout and CWB. The study sampled 442 employees from a central governmental department in South Korea. Positively valent coworkers’ communications were negatively related to burnout, but negatively valent communication was positively related to burnout. Furthermore, burnout was related to CWB. Also, the relationship between negative communication content and burnout was stronger among female than male employees, but there was no gender difference in the positive communication-burnout association. Lastly, weaker positive relationships between burnout and CWB were found among female employees compared to male employees. Overall, the present study shows the differential relationships of positive and negative communication with employees’ outcomes and extends communication research in the workplace with its practical implications (i.e., communications promoting positive aspects of the organization).

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Yun, M., Roach, K.N., Do, N. et al. It’s Not How You Say It, But What You Say: Communication Valence in the Workplace and Employees’ Reactions. Occup Health Sci 4, 357–374 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-020-00070-5

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Keywords

  • Communication
  • Burnout
  • Counterproductive work behavior
  • Gender