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Emotions in institutional work: a discursive perspective

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Organization Studies
Issue number7
Number of pages28
Pages (from-to)963-990
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/02/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper focuses on the dynamics and interplay of meaning, emotions, and
power in institutional work. Based on an empirical study, we explore and
elaborate on the rhetorical strategies of emotion work that institutional actors
employ to mobilize emotions for discursive institutional work. In an empirical
context where a powerful institutional actor is tasked with creating support and
acceptance for a new political and economic institution, we identify three
rhetorical strategies of emotion work: eclipsing, diverting and evoking emotions.
These strategies are employed to arouse, regulate, and organize emotions that
underpin legitimacy judgments and drive resistance among field constituents. We
find that actors exercise influence and engage in overt forms of emotion work by
evoking shame and pride to sanction and reward particular expedient ways of
thinking and feeling about the new institutional arrangements. More importantly,
however, the study shows that they also engage in strategies of discursive
institutional work that seek to exert power—force and influence—in more subtle
ways by eclipsing and diverting the collective fears, anxieties, and moral
indignation that drive resistance and breed negative legitimacy evaluations.
Overall, the study suggests that emotions play an important role in institutional
work associated with creating institutions, not only via “pathos appeals” but also
as tools of discursive, cultural-cognitive meaning work and in the exercise of
power in the field.