Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice

Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice

Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice

Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice

Synopsis

Explores the causes, effects, experience, and management of emotions in organizational life, with practical advice for executives and those who want to influence how management is done.

Excerpt

"Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice." What makes the title of this book so intriguing? Perhaps, it's partly the juxtaposition of emotions and the presumed rationality of the workplace. On the one hand, organizational practitioners and scholars often maintain the convenient fiction that organizations are cool arenas for dispassionate thought and action. Hierarchies, job descriptions, budgets, policies, operating procedures, training regimens, reward systems, and so on are implicitly thought to legislate against intrusive and unseemly emotions. The focus is on knowledge/skills/abilities, decision-making, task performance, and bloodless surrogates for emotion such as job satisfaction and intentions to quit. It's almost as if the construct of emotion is undiscussable--the embarrassing and perhaps even dangerous uncle that threatens the family name--or is only a distracting epiphenomenon of what "really" matters.

On the other hand, practitioners and scholars know--if only by reflecting on their own experiences--that organizational life is unavoidably saturated with emotion and that emotion often has marked effects on thought and action. Organizations, at the micro level, are about people and how they encounter their tasks, each other, and the vicissitudes of the day. Emotions occur naturally and spontaneously as people navigate their work worlds (see Chapter 3 by Basch and Fisher). Thus, emotions are not something that can be walled off from rationalized work; they are endemic to living, whether one is in the office or the home. Indeed, as the title of Part II states, emotions are "structuring forces" in organizations, shaping, for example, status (Tiedens, Chapter 6) and gender relations (Ollilainen, Chapter 7). A subtext of the book, then, is the juxtaposition of feeling individuals and supposedly impassive organizations (Mastenbroek, Chapter 2).

I also suspect that what makes emotions in organizational life so intriguing is that emotions are profoundly personal and yet are often manipulated and co-opted for organizational ends. As Parts III and IV illustrate, emotions serve a vital signaling function: felt emotions signal to oneself what is attractive, repugnant, amiss, and so on (Pratt and Dutton, Chapter 9), and expressed emotions signal to others what one is purportedly feeling (Karabanow, Chapter 13). We come to understand ourselves, others, and our world partly by decoding the ongoing welter of such signals. Emotions thereby connect us to our environment and other people. There are, in short, strong connections between emotion and identity, emotion and social relationships, and emotion and knowledge.

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