Saying it with feeling: Analysing speakable emotions

Christine Coupland, Andrew D. Brown, Kevin Daniels, Michael Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we examine accounts of emotional experiences in one organization. Drawing upon data from interviews across a range of employees, we analyse aspects of emotion, identity and power. Adopting a constructionist perspective we use a method of discourse analysis to analyse how participants constructed emotions according to tacitly understood rules regarding appropriate emotional displays. These rules were made visible through an examination of the participants' positioning strategies as they described emotional experiences. Our findings suggest that, rather than an institutionally held level of appropriate articulations of emotionality, there was a role-related, socially located rule system linked to separate categories of teachers, managers and administrative employees. The contribution of the article is threefold. First, we use in-depth case data from 44 semi-structured interviews to analyse how teachers and managers/administrators in a UK-based further education (FE) college constructed emotions according to certain rules (informal norms) regarding appropriate kinds of emotional displays. Teachers acknowledged and upgraded labelled emotions, while managers and administrators denied and downgraded accounts of emotional experiences. Second, we discuss the implications of talk about emotion for the (re)production of teachers' and managers/administrators' work identities. Third, we consider how people's talk about emotions was bound-up in relations of power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-353
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • Discourse
  • Emotion further education
  • Language
  • Manager
  • Role
  • Colleges
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Emotions
  • Organizational Culture
  • Work Environment

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