Processes of Emotion in the Workplace

I’m going to start with a quote from Miller in her text ‘Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes’…

‘According to most models of organisational life, jobs consist of tasks and the cognitive functions required for those tasks. We train people in the logic and mechanics of how to best do their jobs. We manage conflict and change by thinking logically about what is best for their company and the employees. And when we make decisions, we carefully weigh the pros and cons of each decision and make a logical choice that will maximise gains and minimise losses Miller 2012


She goes on to say:

‘Of course, anyone who has spent time in an organisation (or read my blogs) will know that the information above is inaccurate’ 

Confused yet?

Our interactions are often controlled by emotion, not by logic. We typically make decisions on our jobs and careers based on gut feelings rather than spreadsheets of pros and cons. Unless you are Miranda from Sex and the City making a pros and cons list about Steve, and whether of not she wants to rekindle their marriage (ladies, are you with me?)

Miranda and Steve


Anyway, way off topic here….

Communication scholars Mumby and Linda Putnam (1992) looked at the notion of bounded emotionally. They looked at our emotional lives as a central focus of organisational research and to consider the ways in which paying attention to emotion might lead to new ways of understanding the workplace. There are several areas of research that have stemmed from this initial concept…

Emotion as part of the job

Communication between managers and employees and employees and clients have a  degree of emotional of affective communication between them. I only have to think about nurses to make this connection, day in day out they are dealing with seriously ill people and their emotional families. It takes a special type of person to do this, and I really do take my hat off too them! However, emotional communication is prevalent in less obvious types of occupations, the flight attendant must be happy and welcoming when they serve you, the retail shop assistant must be happy and willing to help you, a debt collector must be stern to avoid any trace of sympathy to retrieve their goods. Arlie Hochschild was the first scholar to deal with this concept of emotional labour, referring to jobs  in which workers were expected to display certain feelings in order to satisfy organisational role expectations. This theorist argues that when performing an emotional labour tasks workers can engage in surface acting, or deep acting. For example, flight attendants involve in surface acting just pasting a smile on their faces to satisfy this organisational requirement. However they may also enter into deep acting, whereby they try to evoke more realistic displays such as imagining the cabin as their living room, and trying to make is as comfortable as possible…if only planes were as comfy as my living room.

Further research has shown:

– Emotional labour is seen as a way to increase success and profits of the organisation.

– Most research considers emotion that is explicitly controlled through training and employment manuals.

– Emotional labour carries with the potential for negative job outcomes such as stress and anxiety.

There are other facets of emotion in the workplace that has been researched over the years, however the most intriguing to me is the emotion as part of workplace relationships and the impact it has on human resources and human relations.

To be frank, individuals in all roles in all organisations feel emotion. Emotion at work, described by Miller (2007) state that it is not the relationships as such, but the emotions that emerge from relationships in the workplace. It looks at how the employee feels at work, if they are apart of the ‘team’, what activities they are involved in and the place of their work in the larger scheme of things.

A number of things can influence our emotion, we often have coworkers that we like or dislike, that make us happy, or make us want to tear our hair out. Therefore, our work with these employees might create and sustain happy or sad emotions. Ever felt this….have a think….I’m guessing the answer is yes?


Hello, Emotional Rules and Emotional Intelligence, it is a pleasure to meet you.

It’s pretty clear that emotion is a big thing in the workplace in communication with coworkers or clients. The emotional display rules are as following:

1. “Express emotions in a professional way”

Control it. Be Professional. Be Calm, cool and collected.

2. “Express emotions to improve situations”

Manage it in order to prevent or correct problems, make your workplace a happy place, not a sad one! Talk about it.

3. “Express emotions to the right people”

Be appropriate. Do it at the right time, to the right person. Think about it before you do it.

4. “Express emotions to help individuals”

Talk about it to help others. Assist your mates. Be kind to one another.

5. “Do not manage emotions for personal benefit to the detriment of others”

Don’t talk about it to promote how good you may be.

6. “The expression of certain emotions is always inappropriate”

Be role appropriate. Control positive emotions. Do not abuse others.


Sorry. Got a bit excited.

Emotions everyone has it, it’s a thing, a big thing, in the workplace.

It can be used as a good thing, developing, making changes, building a positive working environment. But it has to be done in the right way, following the rules above for success.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s