Special Issue Call for Papers


When it can be good to feel bad, and bad to feel good:
Exploring asymmetries in workplace emotional outcomes

Guest Editors:
Dirk Lindebaum (University of Liverpool Management School, UK) and Peter J Jordan (Griffith Business School, Australia)

The deadline for submission is 1 April 2013 and submissions should not be submitted before 01 March 2013.

Within contemporary management research, there is a symmetrical assumption that so-called positive emotions and positive concepts yield positive outcomes (e.g., Bono and Ilies, 2006; Salovey et al., 2002), whereas negative emotions and negative concepts lead to negative outcomes (e.g., Gardner et al., 2009). Our primary intention with this special issue is to challenge these basic assumptions by problematizing this body of knowledge (Alvesson and Sandberg, 2011). Specifically, our proposed alternative is premised on the fact that the realities of organizational life do not reflect such a neat juxtaposition. For instance, Gray and colleagues (2011) demonstrate that sadness motivates the positive behavior of building social connections. In an earlier example, Storbeck and Clore (2005) show that happiness actually impedes memory accuracy (i.e., positive emotion having a negative outcome). In a similar vein, Lindebaum and Fielden's (2011) study partly dispels the myth that anger is always related to negative outcomes at work. That is, anger was related to perceived leader success in the context of the construction industry. Lastly, Dasborough (2006) empirically showed that individuals tend to recall more negative events with leaders than positive events.

In terms of so-called positive concepts, a very similar picture emerges. For instance, the concepts of emotional intelligence (Mayer et al., 2008), positive identity (Dutton et al., 2011), or compassion (Lilius et al., 2011) are nearly exclusively framed within the positive psychology domain, consistently linked with positive outcomes such as better health and life satisfaction (e.g., Mayer et al., 2008). Yet, an emerging body of empirical and theoretical studies show that emotional intelligence, for instance, is related to deviant behaviors at work (Winkel et al., 2011). Curiously, such deviance has been linked to positive outcomes for organizations in the long-run (Lindebaum, in press). At the heart of our theorizing is a wider recognition of potential asymmetrical constellations between emotions/concepts and particular outcomes. Thus, it is too simplistic to assume that there will always be symmetry between positively/negatively valenced concepts and their outcomes. And yet, the hegemony of studies that apply the symmetrical lens we take issue with is palpable. In particular, we are concerned that the symmetrical hegemony may start to constrain wider social inquiries by privileging ways of doing research and setting research expectations that do not always reflect organizational realities. This concern is eloquently echoed by Learmonth and Humphreys (2011), who skeptically respond to recent studies on positive identity (Dutton et al., 2011) by highlighting that such work implicitly seeks to eliminate the 'negative' aspects of work. Similarly, they are explicit that important parts of this literature have been omitted, such that "resisting the traditional interests of managers can provide workers with satisfying and meaningful identities" (p. 425, italics in original).

With this special issue in Human Relations we wish to address this hegemony, and re-direct the ongoing symmetrical debate toward a wider recognition of asymmetrical relationships we identified above. Importantly, we apply a broad view on the nature of concepts (Blumer, 1954) to imply both quantitative and qualitative connotations. Thus, we welcome quantitative contributions that examine, for example, independent variables and their outcomes, and qualitative studies that seek to elicit underlying processes and meanings that individuals attach to the phenomenon under investigation.


In light of the hegemony we seek to scrutinize, the overarching aim of the special issue is to problematize the symmetrical relationships discussed above and to re-conceptualize them into asymmetrical ones. Our aim includes several broad objectives:

  • To challenge researchers to reconsider how we conceptualize the link between discrete emotions and emotion-related concepts and particular outcomes at work
  • To elicit individual processes and meanings attached to when it can be good to feel bad and bad to feel good at work
  • To generate theory that provides alternative insights on (i) the use of emotions at work and (ii) how certain emotion-related concepts influence outcomes at work
  • To encourage empirical investigations that puts this theorizing to the test, and leads to improved organizational practices

Example questions:

  • What factors (e.g., context, individual differences, dyadic relationships, industry expectations, display rules) influence the development of symmetrical or asymmetrical relationships between emotions/concepts and their outcomes?
  • In particular, what is the role of individual skills (e.g., emotional regulation, emotional labor) in influencing or determining the development of symmetrical or asymmetrical relationships between emotions/concepts and their outcomes?
  • Given that there can be considerable differences between and within levels of analysis in terms of how outcomes might be interpreted (e.g., individual, group, or organization), to whom do such qualifications like positive or negative apply?

Please note that we are especially receptive to (i) contributions from a variety of ontological traditions, (ii) papers conspicuous by innovative and challenging theorizing, and (iii) studies from a multiplicity of methodological backgrounds. However, a prerequisite for all submissions must be firm theoretical grounding in the relevant literature. For theoretical pieces, we expect that they also offer significant novel theoretical insights. For empirical papers, we expect that they have a strong methodological design, competently execute the data analysis, and offer significant new insights as a result. Authors are strongly encouraged to refer to the Human Relations website and the instructions on submitting a paper for more details about the types of manuscripts that will be considered for publication.

Contributors should note:

  • This is an open and competitive call for manuscripts, and the submitted manuscripts will be blind reviewed by experienced scholars in the field.
  • Submitted papers must be based on original material not under consideration by any other journal or publication outlet.
  • For empirical papers based on data sets from which multiple papers have been generated, the guest editors must be provided with copies of all other papers based on the same data to ensure a unique intellectual contribution is being made.
  • The guest editors will select a number of papers to be included in the special issue, but other papers submitted in this process may be considered for publication in other issues of the journal.

The deadline for submissions is 1 April 2013 with submissions submitted no earlier than 01 March 2013. The special issue is intended for publication in 2015.

To be considered for this Special Issue, submissions must fit with the Aim and Scope of Human Relations as well as the call for papers. Papers should be submitted online in accordance with our submission guidelines. Please indicate in your covering letter that the paper is intended for this special issue. Please direct any questions about the submission process, or any administrative matter, to Claire Castle, Managing Editor.

Questions about expectations, requirements, and the appropriateness of a topic should be directed to the guest editors of the special issue. They are also open to discussing initial ideas for papers, and can be contacted by email:

Dirk Lindebaum (d.lindebaum@liverpool.ac.uk)
Peter J Jordan (peter.jordan@griffith.edu.au)

Alvesson M and Sandberg J (2011) Theory Development: Generating research questions through problematization. Academy of Management Review 36(2): 247–271.
Blumer H (1954) What is Wrong with Social Theory? American Sociological Review 19(1):
Bono JE and Ilies R (2006) Charisma, positive emotions and mood contagion. The Leadership Quarterly 17(4): 317–334.
Dasborough MT (2006) Cognitive asymmetry in employee emotional reactions to leadership behaviors. The Leadership Quarterly 17(2): 163–178.
Dutton JE, Roberts LM and Bednar J (2011) Pathways for positive identity construction at work: four types of positive identity and the building of social resources. Academy of Management Review 35(2): 265–293.
Gardner WL, Fischer D and Hunt JG (2009) Emotional labor and leadership: A threat to authenticity? The Leadership Quarterly 20(3): 466–482.
Gray HM, Ishii K and Ambady N (2011) Misery Loves Company. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 37(11): 1438–1448.
Learmonth M and Humphreys M (2011) Blind spots in Dutton, Roberts and Bednarís 'Pathways for positive identity construction at work' : 'You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative'. Academy of Management Review 36(2): 424–427.
Lilius JM, Worline MC, Dutton JE, Kanov JM and Maitlis S (2011) Understanding compassion capability. Human Relations 64(7): 873–899.
Lindebaum D (in press) 'I rebel - therefore we exist': emotional standardization in organizations and the emotionally intelligent individual. Journal of Management Inquiry.
Lindebaum D and Fielden SL (2011) "It's good to be angry": Enacting anger in construction project management to achieve perceived leader effectiveness Human Relations 64(3): 437–458.
Mayer JD, Roberts RD and Barsade SG (2008) Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology 59: 507–536.
Salovey P, Mayer JD and Caruso DR (2002) The positive psychology of Emotional Intelligence. In: Snyder CR & Lopez SJ (Eds.) Handbook of positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 159–171.
Storbeck J and Clore GL (2005) With sadness comes accuracy; with happiness, false memory: Mood and the false memory effect. Psychological Science 16(10): 785–791.
Winkel DE, Wyland RL, Shaffer MA and Clason P (2011) A new perspective on psychological resources: Unanticipated consequences of impulsivity and emotional intelligence. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 84(1): 78–94.