I wrote Communicating Emotions at Workafter spending several decades collecting emotional narratives from clerks, probation officers, teachers, firefighters, managers, factory workers, and many others. From this research I learned several important truths.
First, although work is often mundane, emotional encounters make it more meaningful, memorable, humane and (sometimes) stressful.
Second, the success of organizations and individual workers very much depends on their capacity to communicate and regulate human feeling.
Third, emotional communication is often a positive force in organizational life. It is often through expressions of feeling that we forge bonds with coworkers, mark and resist unethical practices, and create cohesive responses to complicated tasks.
Fourth, emotional communication is too often abused or neglected, often with profoundly negative consequences for people and organizations.
Emotion certainly has its biological, cognitive, and affective dimensions, but this book is very much about communication. I want students to think deeply and concretely about how emotion arises from interactions, language practices, collective performances and messages produced by organizations for various audiences.
The book is also firmly rooted in the practice of work. Students will see that emotion is shaped by organizational rules, rituals, processes, and power relations – that emotion flows across teams, networks, technologies, occupational cultures, and work/home boundaries.
In writing Communicating Emotions at Work I made every effort to engage the student reader. At the same time, I hope the book spurs more organizational researchers to think about emotion as a rich communicative phenomenon, one essential to the process of organizing.
Vincent R. Waldron is professor of communication studies at Arizona State University.