Pathways to meaning: A new approach to studying emotions at work

Don Grant, Alfonso Morales, Jeffrey J. Sallaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Research on the emotional consequences of interactive service work remains inconclusive in large part because scholars have not analyzed the mechanisms that lead frontline employees to adopt the meanings disseminated by their employers. The authors argue that the theoretical framework best suited for remedying this situation is the negotiated order perspective. It suggests that whether employees adopt a corporate-sanctioned meaning, and with what emotional effect, depends on the conjunction of several social conditions. The authors also propose a novel analytical strategy that can identify these conditional pathways and formalize the combinatorial logic of the negotiated order perspective: fuzzy-set techniques. To illustrate the utility of this approach, the article examines a university hospital that has tried to create a more meaningful and emotionally rewarding work environment for its nursing staff. Consistent with expectations, findings show that employees can embrace the same corporate-sanctioned meaning under different sets of conditions and with different emotional consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-364
Number of pages38
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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