The message is on the wall? Emotions, social media and the dynamics of institutional complexity

Madeline Toubiana, Charlene Zietsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore how emotions influence organizations in situations of institutional complexity. In particular, we study members' and leaders' emotive responses and influence activities in response to a disruptive event that led to a violation of expectations. Our findings show that when people's expectations of an organization's actions are violated it can trigger a process of emotional escalation that leads to destabilization of the organization through the emotion-laden influence activities of shaming and shunning. The violation in our case resulted in strong negative emotions expressed on Facebook. Facebook acted as an emotional echo chamber where negative emotions were amplified and led to members' emotion-driven influence activities, eventually triggering regret and adaptation by the organization. We discuss implications for the study of emotions in institutional dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-953
Number of pages32
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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