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There’s a lot of silent conflict at work between people trying to do the right thing environmentally, and those who don’t care. A light being left on in an unoccupied office or a recyclable item put in the wrong bin can provoke emotions as strong as guilt, rage or despair, according to a survey by Dr Rebecca Whittle of Lancaster University.
She told the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society in London that the rise of environmentalism is making the workplace brimful of emotion, with seemingly small matters like people leaving computers on overnight, driving rather than cycling to work, or not turning off office lights at the end of the day, provoking strong reactions.
Particular causes of anger in shared offices were people altering the temperature of a room without consulting others, listening to loud music through headphones, or having private conversations without considering those who were trying to concentrate.
But, said Dr Whittle, the anger is rarely – if ever – expressed or translated into action because challenging someone openly or taking responsibility for another person’s equipment such as a computer would be unthinkable.
“Being a good employee today is a very emotional experience”, she says”, in addition to trying to be productive, you must also strive to do your bit for the environment – a task which made still more difficult by the fact that being productive doesn’t necessarily equate with being environmental.”
Management should take a more active role in sorting this out by integrating environmental concerns into the workplace and removing the emotional pressure on those who feel strongly about the issues.