Effective Emotions: The Enactment of a Work Ethic in the Swedish Meeting Industry
Keywords:Work ethic, emotions, meeting industry, discourse
The meeting industry – an encompassing term for services related to various kinds of professional meetings, from mega-conventions to the ordinary work meetings – is increasingly consolidated and legitimated as a specific sector in the service industry. New professions such as meeting designers, meeting facilitators and meeting consultants are emerging, promoting new knowledge in this field. By focussing on processes and social interaction, and highlighting emotional dimensions of meetings, these professions pave the way for new modes of conceptualising and practising professional relationships. The intangible, emotional and playful dimensions of social interactions are promoted as effective means to achieve economic goals, thus highlighting a professional ideal that is here called “effective emotions”. The aim of this article is to show how the work ethic promoted by the meeting industry encourages new intersections, and tensions, between the idealisation of the tangible/measurable/rational on the one hand and the intangible/emotional/magical on the other hand, and between working life and intimate spheres. Through a discourse analysis of a Swedish corporate meeting magazine, it is shown how the distinction between work and leisure is dissolved in this specific work culture, and by this, it is discussed how the meeting profession acts as a normative regulator by reinforcing ideal ways of being and interacting with others. Creativity, personal growth, reflexivity and flexibility are enacted as idealised personal assets as well as moral imperatives in the discourse of the meeting profession and through the practices of various meeting techniques, thus reinforcing not merely a professional ethic but cultural ideals of being as a person as well. It is also suggested that this reinforcement may, under certain circumstances, turn into its opposite and undermine the promoted ideals, thus pointing at the importance to pinpoint the dynamic and situated tension between economic rationality and emotional intensity.
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