Research examines human emotions in the workplace

coworkers laughing

A new literature review co-written by Schulich School of Business Professor Maxim Voronov examines how human emotions affect a variety of aspects associated with organizational behaviour, from social interactions and connection to social action, power and inequality.

The findings are shared in a recent article published in the Journal of Management Studies, titled “Beyond the Feeling Individual: Insights from Sociology on Emotions and Embeddedness.” The article was co-written by Voronov, a professor of organization studies and sustainability at Schulich, together with Rongrong Zhang, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Madeline Toubiana, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management; Russ Vince, a professor emeritus at the University of Bath’s School of Management; and Bryant Ashley Hudson, a professor at the IÉSEG School of Management in France.

The researchers propose a toolkit for deepening the understanding of what they term “emotional embeddedness,” which is the idea that emotions are an intrinsic part of our existence in the social world – not just feelings we have, but part of our lived experiences. They look at emotional embeddedness through three different lenses: collective emotions and social bonds; emotional energy and moral batteries; and emotional capital.

As an example, Voronov cites the concept of “emotional energy” and notes that it is “more than a transient and fleeting emotion – it is generated through and with collective emotions, which are driven by bonds and ties to people as well as institutions.”  

“We need to move beyond the idea that emotions exist in organizations as properties of their individual members, and more toward a view or understanding that emotions are essentially social,” says Voronov. “They’re both socially constructed and socially authorized.”

Looking at emotions beyond the individual, as the researchers have done with this work, advances the view that understanding organizations requires attention to people.

“Our intent is to stimulate more research on emotions in domains where they have not received significant attention,” says Voronov, “and to encourage new ways of thinking about emotions.”