Pushing Emotional Buttons: Ethics and Affective Influence in Organizations
11 Pages Posted: 21 May 2010
Integrating and extending existing theory and research on social influence-seeking, affect, and ethics, we develop a theoretical model that describes a number of factors, including considerations of morality, that influence: (1) the decision and behaviors by one party in an influence situation (the “agent”) to consciously manipulate the emotional experience or emotional perceptions of the other party (the “target”), and (2) the perceptions, judgments, and reactions of the target to the agent’s affective influence attempts. In this model we also consider several contextual factors that are likely to heighten the asymmetry between agents and targets’ perceptions of and ethical judgments about the affective influence tactics used. We specifically focus on three such factors: (1) formal organizational role relationships between target and agent, (2) the relative power of the agent and target, (3) the stakes or size of the influence outcome at hand. We identify aspects of the interpersonal influence process where ethical issues and risks may lie, particularly as they relate to affective influence, and we develop research propositions addressing how and when agents and targets of influence perceive those issues.
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