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Feelings of Power and the Power of Feeling

Handling Emotion in Organisational Change

Poul Poder

Sociologisk Institut 2004, 274 s.
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

Afhandlingen er et emotionssociologisk studie af hvordan ledere og medarbejdere håndterer følelserne under etableringen af to afdelinger i en international koncern. Den viser bl.a. at organisationsforandring også handler om entusiasme, lettelse, tillid og loyalitet. Dogmet om ’modstand mod forandring’ som fremhæver såkaldt negative følelser kan derfor ikke stå alene. Studiet viser også, at medarbejderne var forsigtige med at udtrykke urovækkende følelser. Det gjaldt om ikke at fremstå som ’negativ’. I afhandlingen udvikles det produktive magtbegreb emotionssociologisk, og det illustreres hvordan bestræbelser på empowerment involverede generering af følelser som selvtillid, tillid og loyalitet.

Bedømmelsesudvalget skrev bl.a.:

”Hvad angår de empiriske analyser skal Poul Poder særligt roses for hans sensitive analyser og brug af empiri. … Afhandlingen bidrager til en mere udfoldet forståelse af begrebet om ’negative følelser’ og den ledelsesmæssige håndtering af disse følelser. Den bidrager med et kritisk perspektiv på den gældende ledelsesmæssige forståelse af negative følelser ved at fremhæve lidelsesaspektet i organisationsforandring og det moralske aspekt ved vrede. … Afhandlingens teoretiske del demonstrerer ikke kun en omfattende viden om litteraturen om organisationer og følelsernes sociologi men også en evne til at kombinere forskellige analytiske dimensioner på en overbevisende måde. …Afhandlingen fortjener megen ros for dens dristighed i behandlingen af emner i forreste linie i den sociologiske tænkning om organisationer, for dens opmærksomhed på de interaktive aspekter ved følelser og magt, og for dens understregning af behovet for også at undersøge positive følelser”.

Contents

Acknowledgements 6

1 The Feeling Organisation 7

Gaining empirical insight into emotion in organisation 10

Explorative case study informed by emotion sociological

theories 11

Critical perspective: how we feel is a political issue 13

Organisation of this study 16

Notes 19

2 Emotions in the Study of Organisations and Power 22

The role of emotions in organisational life 22

Understanding emotions as ‘negative’ reactions 23

Understanding employees’ emotions in a psychologising

way 25

Controlling emotions 29

Summary: emotion is also ‘positive’ and intrinsic to power 32

Notes 34

3 A Sociological Understanding of Emotion 35

A model of sociological perspectives on emotion 39

How we manage emotion according to culture 41

Emotion management of self 43

Emotion management of other 46

Organisational emotion management 48

How emotion is formed by structures of power and status 52

Social structures influence emotional experience 52

Social structures influence emotional expression 56

How emotions are generated through social interaction 60

Emotional ‘contagion’ 62

Exchange of emotion via micro-political display 69

Summary: towards a comprehensive understanding

of emotions 76

Notes 81

4 Inserting Emotion into Power Theory 85

Elementary forms of power 86

Interpersonal power and emotion 90

Power through emotion 91

Power as the potential to mobilise energy 96

Generating confidence, trust and loyalty 101

Summary: supporting, engaging and distancing 109

Notes 117

5 Restructuring and Empowerment: a Case Study 120

Organisational context and change 121

Corporate values: empowerment, accountability,

openness and honesty 123

Empowerment as an ‘offer you can’t refuse’ 128

Summary: autonomous empowerment? 132

Notes 135

6 „Negative Emotions“ and Distress in the Change Process 137

‘Not to be negative, but…’ 137

‘Almost impossible to avoid being influenced by rumours’ 143

‘I had never imagined it possible that things could be

handled this way’ 145

‘Exhaustion of the personnel’ 148

‘She was almost about to cry’ 150

‘You just have to laugh in order to survive’ 152

How management dealt with distressed and humiliated

employees 156

‘An inhuman situation‘ 160

Silent and silencing fear 166

Summary: unsettling emotions 168

Notes 171

7 Anger in the Workplace: Strategically Expressed and

Ignored 174

’You had better sleep on it’ 175

‘Being pissed off’ 177

No point in expressing anger 178

‘I have not accepted the change’ 180

‘Personal statements’: accounting for anger or irritation 182

Just take your frustrations out on the manager 183

Summary: understanding anger management 189

Notes 194

8 Energising Emotion: Group Emotion, Confidence,

Trust and Loyalty 195

‘Feeling more equal’ 195

Optimistic stories about themselves 197

’It’s nice to know what we stand for’ 198

Giving way to manager’s mood 200

Confidence: ‘You’re not hindered in your development’ 202

Trust: ‘There are no stupid questions’ 206

Loyalty: stable values of honesty and openness 208

Summary: generating confidence, trust and loyalty 210

Notes 212

9 Conclusion: Emotions and Power in an Organisation 214

Expression of unsettling emotions was segmented and

diluted 214

An empirically grounded understanding of emotion in

organisation 217

How empowerment efforts were contradicted 219

Building an emotionally engaged manager-employee

relationship 223

Implications of this study 225

Acknowledging emotion and organisational development 227

Notes 233

Appendix: Methodology of this study 234

The case study as research strategy 234

Access, consent and independent research 240

Analysing the data 242

Methodological lessons learned 247

Notes 253

Summary 255

Danish Summary 259

References 263