My research examines how people make sense of and talk about emotions at work. Specifically, I explore the risks and rewards of acknowledging others' emotions. My dissertation seeks to answer questions including: How does emotional acknowledgment signal information about the quality of our social relationships? How can we surface relevant, but hidden team information using emotional signals? How does acknowledging emotions change our own self-presentation?
In addition to emotions, my secondary research interests include prosocial behavior, creativity, and team conflicts.
People often respond to others’ emotions using verbal acknowledgment (e.g., “You seem upset”). Yet, little is known about the relational benefits and risks of acknowledging others’ emotions in the workplace. We draw upon Costly Signaling Theory to posit how emotional acknowledgment influences interpersonal trust. We hypothesize that emotional acknowledgment acts as a costly signal of the perceiver’s willingness to expend personal resources to meet the needs of the expresser. Across six studies, we found convergent evidence that emotional acknowledgment led to greater perceptions of costliness, and in turn, to higher evaluations of trust. These effects were stronger for negative than positive emotions because acknowledging negative emotions involved a greater perceived cost. Moreover, inaccurate acknowledgment fostered greater trust than not acknowledging when positive emotions were mislabeled as negative, but not when negative emotions were mislabeled as positive. These findings advance theory on key dynamics between emotion and language in work-related relationships.
Past research on idea implementation has focused on employees trying to win social support for their own ideas, but employees are often handed ideas to implement that were developed by others. We propose and test hypotheses on such handoffs, focusing on how handing employees relatively mature ideas to implement may lead them to build less creative final products. We tested our hypotheses using two studies: an archival study of 5,676 movies in the U.S. film industry and a complementary experiment. Results suggest that late handoffs yielded less creative final products than no or early handoffs, meaning it was costly to creativity when employees implemented relatively mature ideas without driving at least some of their prior development. However, serialized late handoffs—when implementers are handed relatively mature ideas after an earlier handoff between two other individuals—were less costly to creativity than late handoffs from one other individual. Mediation results suggest that late handoffs reduced implementers’ creativity by restricting their sense of psychological ownership and the coherence of their final products. This research advances theory on idea implementation, handoffs, and psychological ownership in creative work.
Reciprocity implies equality in the giving and receiving of benefits. However, we find that reciprocity does not generate equal benefits, in terms of social status. Instead, across 7 studies (N = 3,426), observers conferred more status to individuals who initiated (i.e., initiators) than individuals who reciprocated (i.e., reciprocators) identical prosocial acts. Further, choosing not to reciprocate a prosocial act led to a more severe status penalty than choosing not to initiate a prosocial act. We find this discounting of reciprocity is driven by perceived obligation—observers view reciprocators as acting under constraint. When reciprocation appears less obligatory (e.g., given indirectly, or privately), the status discount is mitigated. Finally, we show that the discounting of a reciprocal act can be enduring—reciprocators still received less status after 2 successive, counterbalanced rounds of exchange.