October 11, 2023

2:00 p.m. ET

This event is for invited researchers only.

Scholar presenter:

Estelle Archibold, The Pennsylvania State University

Seed generators:

Karen Locke, William and Mary

Robin Ely, Harvard University


Incubating the Germ that “Gets Under Our Skin”: The Emotion Work of Equity Leaders in a Conflicted Organization

Talk description:

In this 30-month ethnographic study, I investigate how equity leaders in an intractable conflict setting develop and utilize emotion practices to facilitate personal and interpersonal “emotion work” (Hochschild, 1979; Phillips and Lawrence, 2012; Lawrence and Phillips, 2019; Moisander, et al., 2016). Based on data generated from experience sampling, semi-structured interviews and participant observation, I draw on systems psychodynamics theory (Petriglieri and Petriglieri, 2020) to establish the essential role of conflict in equity work. Building on this, I shine a light on the precarious nature of racialized conflict and its impact on equity leaders’ embodied experiences (e.g. suffering, creativity, calling and synergy), and their ability to draw on these bodily resources in their “emotion work.” I argue that some equity leaders’ systematic efforts to engage with personal and shared conflict emotions constituted social innovations (Nilsson, 2015) that translated across their engagement with organizational members and external stakeholders. However, equity leaders that struggled to develop and/or consistently utilize emotion practices that facilitated their “emotion work” were not able to navigate the dynamic emotional, relational and political nature of equity work in this organization, resulting in burn out, voluntary exiting or being exited from the organization. Finally, I consider how the nature of equity work in contemporary organizations presents a novel case for gaining insight into the role of conflict in developing generative “relational systems” (Kahn, 1998; Kahn, Barton & Fellows, 2013).

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubators here and direct questions about individual sessions to cpo-events@umich.edu.