AoM2011: Redemption Day

August 15, 2011

Not so much “a train heading straight to Heaven’s Gate” but we made progress today. Yesterday was more “Fire rages in the street” as far as I was concerned. Mind you my expectations were on the low side and the first session looked like it could go either way with the title Religion, Emotions, and the Workplace. As things turned out it was interesting. We started with a piece of research on the way in which Taiwanese taxi drivers sought to gain respect with customers and accommodate new technology. This was a discussion in the context of Job Crafting, with the literature focusing on rational/economic motivation while our speaker wanted to look more at emotion and respect. Like far too many papers here the sample was limited and it was very easy to suggest alternative explanations, but the cases were interesting and the presentation coherent.   

From there we moved to Jason Dahling of the College of New Jersey who had a style to delight if you were an under graduate. Precise phrases, clear slides, coherent theory. He was dealing with the service industry and the importance of Emotional Labour. Now this was a new phrase for me. One of the delights of being a generalist at a conference of deep specialists is you get to pick up a lot of material you can integrate, you also have the fun of asking questions about whole disciplines relating to the field of study of which the presenter is unaware. The bad ones bluff (and you can move in for the kill) the good ones (and he was one) come back with questions and ask for readings. Either way for those of you who share my ignorance, emotional labour is the investment you put in to assume an emotional response to a customer that you need for the job. Like a waitress for example.

A key distinction was made between surface acting and deep acting. In the former you simply pretend, in the later you mentally get yourself into a state by which the feelings become real. Interestingly the research shows that the latter is less stressful. The lecturer was interested to discover if religious people are generally better at this, not just in caring professions but elsewhere. His hypothesis being that they were predisposed to deep acting and also had support networks. It will be interesting to see what he finds as the research is about to start. I asked two questions. Firstly how did he propose to test for the difference between declared and actual behaviour in religious motivation, I referenced the 1978 Good Samaritan experiment which I have replicated by the way – its a great management exercise with some adaption. Secondly I suggested that he needed to look at the links between ritual and cognitive screening which might provide an alternative. The first he had some good ideas on, the second was new to him so I provided some references and swapped cards. I’m looking forward to what comes out of this.

He was followed by a couple of PhD students looking at the role of religious fundamentalism in determining attitudes to the glass ceiling, again early stage stuff. An interesting question for the US and some oddities on their initial work. It turned out fundamentalists were likely to support family friendly policies when they had assumed they would not (the woman’s place is in the home and all that). It turned out not to be the case and their new hypothesis was that fundamentalists did not want women to work, but if they did supported anything which would allow them to spend more time with the family. Again interesting to see how that turns out but its very US culture centric.

Finally in the session a project looking at emotional regulation in the work of financial traders. In effect do the master’s of the universe cry when they loose money. Not hugely interesting, a lot of self-evidence stuff. Traders like to have a trade on (well what a surprise), younger traders bottle up emotional response, older ones then to be more comfortable as they have more experience. Confirmatory stuff really no surprises although some good summary stuff on reversed and non-rehersed strategies to deal with failure.

After that there were two more sessions, one I went to accidentally and was grateful, the other was planned, packed and interesting. Both deserve posts in their own right.

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AoM2011: Primative dichotomies and emotional foolishness

The choice of illustration here is ironic by the way - its original title is ...

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