Organizational Learning, Politics, and Emotion

Despite the awareness that reason and emotion define each other, we often imagine that organizations are rational places, where we can use our intellectual abilities and our knowledge to implement decisions, to problem solve, and to take the organization forward. And this is true—we can do this through rational and intellectual endeavor. However, rationality is only one aspect of our experience and our knowledge in organizations. We also know that organizations overflow with stated and unstated emotions; with complex inter-personal relations; and with politics and power. Learning in organizations and the organization of learning processes are inevitably bound up with political dynamics, with power, and with resistance. So, how are we to understand politics in relation to learning? Politics is

a term used to describe the activity of individuals, groups, organizations or institutions in mobilising resources and enrolling people to support a policy, plan or project . . . politics is a practice of securing compliance or consent . . . politics might be the practice of resistance to the established power relations . . . (or) it is just as likely to be a question of power struggles between different groups of managers

(Odih and Knights, 2007: 336)

In our view, an interest in emotion in organizations should seek to address the ways in which emotions, as they interweave with political problems, are individually felt and collectively produced ...

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