Bounded emotionality is a concept within communication theory that stems from emotional labor and bounded rationality. It was proposed by Dennis K. Mumby and Linda L. Putnamand defines an alternative form of organizing that encourages the expression of a greater spectrum of emotions in organizational communication. Mumby and Putnam (1992) stress that bounded emotionality encourages emotions of nurturance, care, community, supportiveness, and interrelatedness fused with individual responsibility to shape organizational experiences. Emotions are encouraged to be expressed but must fall within variable boundaries, which differs from traditional and normative organizations.
Intersubjective limitations: In organizations, individuals must recognize another person’s subjectivity. That is, be aware that people have different levels of comfort when it comes to emotional expression, some may be very expressive, whereas others may be more reserved. Individuals must be able to tailor their communication based on emotional limitations and preferences both individuals bring to the relationship.
Spontaneously emergent work feelings: Work feelings should appear naturally through everyday tasks; they should not be assigned. Feelings can and should emerge in a way that is not controlled by the organization’s management or appointed for the organization’s benefit.
Tolerance of ambiguity: Unlike bounded rationality, which requires the same specified emotions to be utilized in interactions with every person in every context, bounded emotionality includes room for contradictory feelings, positions and demands to coexist.
Heterarchy of goals and values: There is not one universal set of values; instead each individual holds his/her own perspective on values. These unique sets of values held by individuals should be considered and respected in all interactions.
Integrated self-identity and authenticity: Individuals should be allowed and encouraged to express themselves genuinely in their organizations, without feeling a need to falsely state emotions due to work pressures.
Community: Bounded emotionality is used in organizations to promote strong feelings of community between all members of the organization. Emotions are used to create a tighter-knit group that understands each other.
Relational feeling rules: Feeling rules are used to help individuals recognize the other person’s subjectivity and to encourage receptiveness in relationships. These rules are guidelines of meanings for different experiences instead of guidelines for organizational norms.
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