Toxin Handler Behaviour: An Initial Assessment of a New Measure

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



Pain pervades the workplace in many forms. Events that occur in people's lives in and outside of work affect how they feel and how they perform their job. Difficult situations disturb people's emotional states. In addition to this, many people are exposed to toxic situations at work. The cause can come from many different sources, some intended and some not. Yet, organizations generally function and operate in a relatively undisrupted manner despite these potentially toxic situations. But how do people in organizations process and manage the stress, anxieties, and pain that exist in daily work life. How do organizations continue to function in spite of these difficulties? Researchers recently asked these questions and recognize that workplaces function because they contain compassionate people. A promising new concept suggested by Peter Frost examines both the pain and the compassion found in organizations. He coined the term toxin handler to describe a boundary spanning extra-role behaviour where employees help their coworkers deal with pain. These toxin handlers help their colleagues deal with pain caused by others in the organization, yet are also of great support and strength when the pain is external and affecting how the employee feels and performs on their job. Because this is a new concept, little is known about the underlying dimensions of handling toxins and what specific types of helping behaviours exist. In this article we describe the initial results of an empirical stream of research focusing on toxin handler behaviours and toxin handlers.



Research Areas

Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources


Administrative Sciences Association of Canada Annual Conference, 22-25 May 2010, Saskatchewan, Canada

City or Country

Saskatchewan, Canada

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