An Emotion-Based Perspective on Learning in Client-Facing Work

Suvi Helin, Timo Vuori

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientificpeer-review


This paper examines learning in a strategy consulting agency. A two-year ethnographic study examines how BraveCo Ltd. influenced its employees’ ability to perform in an extremely demanding environment: consultants were required to learn challenging tasks in a fast-paced environment while simultaneously managing the continuous emotional pressure of client-facing work. BraveCo used two seemingly contradictory mechanisms to manage employees’ ability to learn and perform successfully. Enforcing practices created an environment with high expectations through which consultants routinely became cognizant of new areas where they needed to provide superior abilities. Through these practices, the consultants learned to use their self-awareness to spot gaps between their current knowledge and client expectations, and through shame management, they were mindfully prepared in their work not to feel ashamed of these gaps. Protective practices preserved the consultants’ confidence by limiting their exposure to information that pointed to their weaknesses, which enabled them to maintain confidence to sell new projects. A cognitive perspective would predict that practices that expose individuals to more information about the factors influencing their performance benefit learning, but our emotional perspective suggests that such practices can undermine learning because they reduce the confidence necessary to enact the actual experiences that generate learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventAcademy of Management Annual Meeting: Understanding the Inclusive Organization - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 79


ConferenceAcademy of Management Annual Meeting
Abbreviated titleAOM
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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