Sub-theme 13: [SWG] Emotions, Power, and Contestation

Michael J. Gill
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Bryant A. Hudson
IESEG School of Management, France
Charlene Zietsma
Pennsylvania State University, USA

Call for Papers

There is increased recognition that emotions are not simply personal phenomena. Rather, emotions can also be social, relational, and institutional, as they connect people to organizations and institutions and can be conditioned in important ways by those institutions and organizations (Creed et al., 2014; Friedland, 2018; Friedland et al., 2014; Massa et al., 2017; Scheff, 1990; Toubiana & Zietsma, 2017; Voronov &Vince, 2012; Voronov &Weber, 2016; Voronov & Yorks, 2015; Zietsma & Toubiana, 2018; Zietsma et al., 2019). Accordingly, emotions are central to organizational life (Mumby & Putnam, 1992) and to social theories (Friedland, 2018). Research has begun to outline the various ways in which emotions may be important, yet we are only beginning to understand the effects of power on emotional dynamics.
Organizations can define appropriate feeling rules in work (Hochschild, 1979; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987), but these rules may feel oppressive to actors within these contexts (Martin et al., 1998), and recent work suggests that feeling rules may apply unequally depending on one’s power position (Jakob-Sadeh & Zilber, 2019). Emotions may be used strategically to motivate institutional work (Jarvis et al., 2019), but such activity may involve emotional manipulation by the powerful to encourage or coerce conformity and maintain institutions (Moisander et al., 2016). For example, shaming rituals can be used by powerful institutional guardians to induce conformity not only in those who have transgressed social and institutional standards of behavior, but also in bystanders and other observers who may or may not have considered nonconforming behaviors (Creed et al., 2014). Fear has also been shown to drive conformity and the reproduction of precise practices (Gill & Burrow, 2018) and the application of systemic power has been shown to limit disruption (Wijaya & Heugens, 2018). Emotions like shame, fear, and the attendant despair that may result from such manipulations can hold people in dominated positions, sap their potential for action, and lead to or reify institutionalized inequalities (Chan & Anteby, 2016). On the other hand, the manipulation of both negative and positive emotions can help to create a position of power for leaders of a collective while at the same time, energizing their followers (Barberá-Tomás et al., 2019).
Yet, while emotions may contribute and exacerbate existing inequities, they may also motivate people to contest or defy power, even when doing so is costly (Voronov & Vince, 2012; Wright et al., 2015), serving as the motivational fuel to energize action (Reinecke & Ansari, 2016; Zietsma & Toubiana, 2019). Connecting with the emotional may give actors fighting power to construct grievances and motivate collective action (Collins, 1990; Goodwin & Pfaff 2001; Jasper, 2011) as they activate the connections people have with social groups (Creed, et al. 2014) and their moral values (Fan & Zietsma, 2017; Vaccaro & Palazzo, 2015). For example, collective anger and rage (Hudson et al., 2019), especially when in response to collective shaming and fear (Scheff, 1987), can motivate collective action, either violent or non-violent. On the other hand, emotional energy arising from hope and a positive connection to a collective identity can also energize collective action to contest social practices (Barberá-Tomás et al., 2019; Ruebottom & Auster, 2018).
Thus, emotions are an important component of control and contestation. Emotions serve as both a process and outcome of control (Knights & Willmott, 1989). Lived emotional experiences are often institutionally conditioned (Gill & Burrow, 2018) while such institutional control is enabled and maintained by institutional actors (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006). There remains considerable opportunity to explore the relationship between emotions and emancipation, and emotions and contestation, within organizations, institutions (Gill, 2019; Willmott, 2011), and social movements (Jarvis et al., 2019).
The purpose of this sub-theme is to explore the link between emotions, power, and contestation, addressing questions such as:

  • How do particular emotions become co-opted as micro-technologies of power, and how they are used effectively and persistently?

  • How do members of organizations respond to attempts to manipulate their emotions and control emotional displays?

  • How do emotions affect inequality, dominance, and subjugation and vice versa? How do emotions affect one’s acceptance of/experience of oppression?

  • How do emotions affect agency (Fan & Zietsma, 2017), and what are the implications for contestation?

  • How do emotions shape resistance to organizational or institutional control? How do they shape compliance with organizational or institutional control?

  • How do social movements, organizations and leaders use passion or fantasy to affect and embed their members and followers? What leads to disillusionment and disembedding and what are the effects?

  • How are emotion and identification related, and what are their joint implications for power?

  • How do reason and emotion interpenetrate one another (Emirbayer and Goldberg 2005) and how do they affect power construction and dismantling?

  • What is the relationship between emotions and emancipation?



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  • Chan, C.K., & Anteby, M. (2016): “Task segregation as a mechanism for within-job inequality: Women and men of the transportation security administration.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 61 (2), 184–216.
  • Collins, R.C. (1990): “Stratification, emotional energy, and the transient emotions.” In: R.D. Kemper (ed.): Research Agendas in the Sociology of Emotions. Albany: SUNY, 27–57.
  • Douglas Creed, W.E., Hudson, B.A., Okhuysen, G.A., & Smith-Crowe, K. (2014): “Swimming in a sea of shame: incorporating emotion into explanations of institutional reproduction and change.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (3), 275–301.
  • Emirbayer, M., & Goldberg, C.A. (2005): “Pragmatism, Bourdieu, and collective emotions in contentious politics.” Theory and Society, 34 (5–6), 469–518.
  • Fan, G.H., & Zietsma, C. (2017): “Constructing a shared governance logic: The role of emotions in enabling dually embedded agency.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (6), 2321–2351.
  • Friedland, R. (2018): “Moving institutional logics forward: Emotion and meaningful material practice.” Organization Studies, 39 (4), 515–542.
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  • Gill, M.J., & Burrow, R. (2018): “The function of fear in institutional maintenance: Feeling frightened as an essential ingredient in haute cuisine.” Organization Studies, 39 (4), 445–465.
  • Goodwin, J., & Pfaff, S. (2001): “Emotion work in high risk social movements: Managing fear in the U.S. and East German civil rights movements.” In: J.M. Jasper, J.J. Goodwin & F. Polletta (eds.): Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 282–302.
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  • Hudson, B.A., Jarvis, L., & Goodrick, E. (2019): “Collective rage, power, and institutions: Examining the processes of institutional disruption, defense and reaction.” Working paper.
  • Jakob-Sadeh, L., & Zilber, T.B. (2019): “Bringing 'together': Emotions and power in organizational responses to institutional complexity.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (5), 1413–1443.
  • Jarvis, L.C., Goodrick, E., & Hudson, B.A. (2019): “Where the heart functions best: Reactive–affective conflict and the  disruptive work of animal rights organizations.” Academy of Management Journal, 62(5), 1358–1387.
  • Jasper, J.M. (2011): “Emotions and social movements: Twenty years of theory and research.” Annual Review of Sociology, 37, 285–303.
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  • Massa, F.G., Helms, W.S., Voronov, M., & Wang, L. (2017): “Emotions uncorked: Inspiring evangelism for the emerging practice of cool-climate winemaking in Ontario.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (2), 461–499.
  • Moisander, J.K., Hirsto, H., & Fahy, K.M. (2016): “Emotions in institutional work: A discursive perspective.” Organization Studies, 37 (7), 963–990.
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  • Rafaeli, A., & Sutton, R.I. (1987): “Expression of emotion as part of the work role.” Academy of Management Review, 12 (1), 23–37.
  • Reinecke, J., & Ansari, S. (2016): “Taming wicked problems: The role of framing in the construction of corporate social responsibility.” Journal of Management Studies, 53 (3), 299–329.
  • Ruebottom, T., & Auster, E.R. (2018): “Reflexive dis/embedding: Personal narratives, empowerment and the emotional dynamics of interstitial events.” Organization Studies, 39 (4), 467–490.
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  • Toubiana, M., & Zietsma, C. (2017): “The message is on the wall? Emotions, social media and the dynamics of institutional complexity.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (3), 922–953.
  • Vaccaro, A., & Palazzo, G. (2015): “Values against violence: Institutional change in societies dominated by organized crime.” Academy of Management Journal, 58(4), 1075–1101.
  • Voronov, M., & Vince, R. (2012): “Integrating emotions into the analysis of institutional work.” Academy of Management Review, 37 (1), 58–81.
  • Voronov, M., & Weber, K. (2015): “The heart of institutions: Emotional competence and institutional actorhood.” Academy of Management Review, 41 (3), 456–478.
  • Voronov, M., & Yorks, L. (2015): “‘Did you notice that?’ Theorizing differences in the capacity to apprehend institutional contradictions.” Academy of Management Review, 40 (4), 563–586.
  • Wijaya, H.R., & Heugens, P.M.A.R. (2018): “Give me a hallelujah! Amen! Institutional reproduction in the presence of moral perturbation and the dynamics of emotional investment.” Organization Studies, 39 (4), 491–514.
  • Willmott, H. (2011): “‘Institutional work’ for what? Problems and prospects of institutional theory.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 20 (1), 67–72.
  • Wright, A., Zammuto, R., & Liesch, P. (2015): “Maintaining the values of a profession: Institutional work and moral emotions in the emergency department.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (1), 200–237.
  • Zietsma, C., & Toubiana, M. (2018): “The valuable, the constitutive, and the energetic: exploring the impact and importance of studying emotions and institutions.” Organization Studies, 39 (4), 427–443.
  • Zietsma, C., & Toubiana, M. (2019): “Emotions as the glue, the fuel and the rust of social innovation.” In: G. George, T. Baker, P. Tracey & H. Joshi (eds.): Handbook of Inclusive Innovation: The Role of Organizations, Markets and Communities in Social Innovation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 322–341.
  • Zietsma, C., Toubiana, M., Voronov, M., & Roberts, A. (2019): Emotions in Organization Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Michael J. Gill is an Associate Professor of Organisation Studies at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. His research interests lie in people’s experiences of modern work and qualitative research methods. He has explored these topics across different occupational groups including accountants, elite chefs, lawyers, management consultants and police officers. Michael’s work appears in the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Journal of Vocational Behaviour’, ‘Organizational Research Methods’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Organization.’
Bryant A. Hudson is a Professor of Management at IESEG School of Management, Paris, France. He studies organizational stigma, stigmatized emotions in institutional processes, organizational scandals, and knowledge taboos in a variety of contexts, including gay and lesbian organizations, abortion service providers, and major national industries. His work appears in the ‘Academy of Management Review’, A’cademy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’, ‘International Studies in Management and Organization’, and’ Organization’.
Charlene Zietsma is an Associate Professor, Management & Organization, at the Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, USA. Her research, published in journals such as ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Business Venturing’ and other fine journals, focuses on organizational fields, institutional change processes, social and sustainable entrepreneurship and social emotions. Charlene has co-authored the book “Emotions in Organization Theory”, published by Cambridge University Press (2019).