Social Functions of Emotion and Talking About Emotion at Work
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Social Functions of Emotion and Talking About Emotion at Work

Edited by Dirk Lindebaum, Deanna Geddes and Peter J. Jordan

What novel theoretical insights can be gleaned by comparing our theoretical understanding of emotion in relation to how we 'talk about’ emotion at work? Drawing from psychological and sociological thinking, leading emotion researchers respond to this question for ten common and powerful emotions at work. The chapters detail various conditions under which our study of emotions and our talk about them can be at odds or reinforce each other in organizations, and how these differences impact subsequent consequences for organizations and their members.
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Chapter 11: Ashamed of your shame? How discrepancy self-talk and social discourse influence individual shame at work

Sandra A. Kiffin-Petersen


The aim of this chapter is to better understand the emotion of shame and its function in interpersonal relationships at work. Shame is a self-conscious, moral emotion that evolved to increase an individual’s chances of acceptance in a social group by signalling to them when they have violated the group’s moral standards or social norms. Appeasement is therefore, a core function and potential outcome of shame. Attributing the cause of a moral violation or a performance failure to a deficient self is a key distinguishing feature of shame. As such, a unique pattern of cognitions including self-criticism and ruminative thoughts characterize shame, and this can potentially increase the need for emotion regulation and adversely affect psychological well-being. In the second part of the chapter the way in which shame is talked about is discussed, as this influences workers’ appraisals of shame-inducing events and how they might respond. Observers who respond with negative comments in the workplace can further stigmatize shame, and this can encourage a maladaptive response. The importance of adopting a contextualized approach to studying shame in the workplace, including specifying the focal point of thinking and the level of analysis, is a key conclusion.

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