Autonomy and Emotion Management. Middle managers in welfare professions during radical organizational change
Keywords:Organization & management
AbstractThis case study was conducted among middle managers during a period of radical change within the Norwegian child welfare service. Our goal was to explore how the middle managers handle and respond to emotional dissonance and constraints in autonomy during the change process. We collected data through group meetings, individual interviews, and focus groups. Prior research on middle managers has shown their importance in the implementation of organizational change. We propose that middle managers conduct emotion work, emotional labor, and emotional balancing in response to the increased complexity of organizational expectations during change processes. Further, we argue that the need for relevant emotion management reflects a threat to managers’ autonomy. Our findings indicate that middle managers feel emotional dissonance, due to their position as both recipients and executers of organizational change. This makes them vulnerable to questions of loyalty, and they feel they have no backstage where they can express themselves openly. However, their ability to plan emotion management and to balance various conflicting expectations enables them to maintain autonomy during a radical change process. Our basic arguments and findings are summarized by applying the logic of a historistic functional model.
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