Emotions at Work: Theory, Research, and Applications in Management

By Roy L. Payne; Cary L. Cooper | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
Affect at work:
a historical perspective

Howard M. Weiss

Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Arthur P. Brief

Department of Psychology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA

Our task was to write a history of research on affect in organizations. We accepted this task with excitement and trepidation. The excitement came from the opportunity to take a systematic look at the roots of a topic that has occupied our individual attention for many years. The trepidation came from the recognition that the task was rather daunting (Spector, 1996, estimated that by 1991 more than 12,400 studies had been published on job satisfaction), and by the recognition that, obviously, we are not trained historians.

In this, our own personal approach-avoidance conflict, the approach won out. Nonetheless, the enormity of the literature and its presence in multiple disciplines kept the avoidance component ever present and guided certain decisions about how to frame the historical analysis. To begin with, we have organized our analysis by period, and, within each period, focused our attention on the key studies. Anyone's determination of “key” studies will be subjective and ours is no exception. Our choices were based upon the citations of other papers of the time, discussions in well-known texts, our assessments after reading the literature as a whole, and, importantly, two lifetimes of study on the topic. We also discuss some general themes relevant to each time period.

Our second strategic decision was to focus primarily on the literature within industrial/organizational psychology and organizational behavior. Research


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