Helping or Ostracizing? Employee Responses to Coworker Anxiety Expression

Diwan Li, Katrina Jia Lin, Bonnie Cheng, Yidong Tu

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


While conventional research has shown that feeling anxiety yields a variety of negative outcomes, we know little about the consequences of expressing anxiety. Grounded in emotional as social information (EASI) theory, we develop and test a model to understand both the benefits and costs of anxiety expression at work from an observer perspective. We propose that, on the one hand, anxiety expression elicits observer’s perspective taking, and further promotes more helping behavior towards the expresser (i.e., affiliative consequences); on the other hand, anxiety expression leads the observer to perceive the expresser as incompetent, and then respond with higher ostracism (i.e., social distancing consequences). We further hypothesize that rivalry between the observer and the anxiety expresser acts as the boundary condition, which affects the strength of theses affiliative or social distancing consequences. One scenario-based experiment and one experience sampling study provide support for our predictions. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management Proceedings
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 2022
EventThe 82nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - Washington, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20229 Aug 2022


ConferenceThe 82nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this