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Managed Hearts and Wallets: Ethical Issues in Emotional Influence By and Within Organizations

  • Ingrid Smithey Fulmer and Bruce Barry

Increasing research attention to the ways that firms seek to influence the emotions of employees, consumers, and other stakeholders has not been accompanied by systematic attention to the ethical dimensions of emotion management. In this article we review and discuss research that informs the morality of influencing and regulating the emotions of others. What are the moral limits of the use of emotion as a management tool for shaping workplace behavior and influencing the thoughts and actions of consumers? Do the ethics of emotional labor and emotional appeals (e.g., in consumer advertising) depart from moral rules that apply in “non-emotional” contexts? To explore these questions we examine research on the means by which individuals’ emotions are shaped and on the organizationally relevant consequences of individual emotional experience. We then discuss a number of potential ethical issues that are implicit or explicit in the organizationally sanctioned use of emotion management, incorporating existing literature in management and business ethics that has addressed the moral obligations of organizations in this context, and highlighting areas where there is yet work to be done. We conclude by discussing the implications of our analysis.

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