In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Emotions in Organizational Behavior

  • Introduction
  • History and Trends
  • Textbooks
  • Journals

Management Emotions in Organizational Behavior
Neal M. Ashkanasy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0041


The study of emotions in organizational settings is a subfield within the discipline of organizational behavior (OB), which Ricky W. Griffin defines as “the study of human behavior in organizational settings, of the interface between human behavior and the organization, and of the organization itself” (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Management article Organizational Behavior). As is the case with OB, emotion research is multidisciplinary, including influences from psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, industrial engineering, and philosophy. In this article the term “emotion” is used as a catch-all, covering discrete emotion (visceral reaction to environmental events), mood (longer-term visceral states, not necessarily related to environmental events), affect (positive or negative emotions or moods, varying on dimensions of valence and intensity), and feelings (subjective experience of emotions or moods).

History and Trends

The study of the role and effect of emotions at work was a topic of interest for scholars of OB in the years before World War II (Weiss and Brief 2001). Emotions also feature prominently in Terkel 2004, an acclaimed book, in which the author reports the results of interviewing hundreds of US workers about their jobs. Nonetheless, modern scholarly research into emotion in work settings began with the publication of Hochschild 2003. This book introduced to the English lexicon the term “emotional labor,” which was taken up shortly after by Anat Rafaeli and Robert I. Sutton in their seminal Academy of Management Review piece (see Rafaeli and Sutton 1987, cited under Early Period, 1987–2002). At the same time, social and organizational psychologists were beginning to take the study of emotion more seriously, and organizational psychologists began to study the affective underpinnings of motivation and job satisfaction. The first article to integrate research in these fields was written by the German psychologists Reinhard Pekrun and Michael Frese (see Pekrun and Frese 1992, cited under Early Period, 1987–2002). Ashforth and Humphrey 1995 (cited under Early Period, 1987–2002) asks why organizational researchers had, up to that time, not taken emotions seriously. The latter half of the 1990s saw an increasing stream of research on emotion and its effects in work settings, culminating in the review article Brief and Weiss 2002 (cited under Early Period, 1987–2002). The authors describe how research into emotion in organizations was initiated in the 1930s but then dropped from view with the rise of modernism in the postwar years, only to see a renaissance in the “hot 1990s.” The e-mail discussion group Emonet has played an influential role in developing the field though its biannual conferences and edited volumes, now the annual book series Research on Emotion in Organizations. The authors of Barsade, et al. 2003 (cited under Later Period, 2003–) announced that an “affective revolution” had taken place, marking the dawn of renewed interest in the field. Mastenbroek 2000 provides a history of emotion in organizational management.

  • Emonet.

    The formation of the group in 1997 had a major effect on promotion of research into emotions in organizations. The group sponsors the annual book series Research on Emotion in Organizations, now published by Emerald.

  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

    Originally published in 1983, this e-book introduced the term “emotional labor” to the literature. Hochschild, an organizational sociologist, describes the day-to-day working behavior of airline flight attendants and debt collectors, illustrating how a critical component of their jobs involves expressing the right emotions.

  • Mastenbroek, Willem. “Organizational Behavior as Emotion Management.” In Emotions in the Workplace: Research, Theory, and Practice. Edited by Neal M. Ashkanasy, Charmine E. J. Härtel, and Wilfred J. Zerbe, 19–35. Westport, CT: Quorum, 2000.

    The author outlines a detailed history of emotion in organizational management since Aristotle and discusses the pervasive effects of emotions in work and organizational settings over two thousand years.

  • Terkel, Studs. Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do. New York: New Press, 2004.

    Terkel is an engaging writer who interviewed hundreds of workers across the United States, detailing how they struggle emotionally to deal with the stresses and strains of modern work life. Originally published in 1974 (New York: Pantheon).

  • Weiss, Howard, and Art Brief. “Affect at Work: A Historical Perspective.” In Emotions at Work: Theory, Research, and Applications for Management. Edited by Roy L. Payne and Cary L. Cooper, 133–172. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2001.

    The authors provide a detailed history of emotions research in organizations, including some interesting references to work done in the 1930s and 1940s.

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