1.Sutton, R. I. and Rafaeli, A. (1988) ‘Untangling the relationship between displayed emotions and organizational sales: The case of convenience stores’, The Academy of Management Journal, 31(3): 461-487.
2.Stearns, P. N. (2012) ‘The history of happiness’, Harvard Business Review, 90(1/2): 104-109.
Q1: Stearns’ article is an enjoyable read. It is very US focussed but is none the less an interesting insight into the epicurean school of philosophy in an approachable societal / magazine format. The subtitle of the article states that the piece will explain “How the pursuit of contentment has shaped the West’s culture and economy”. However while the impact of economic changes, such as family demographics, migration from a manufacturing to a white collar workforce and globalisation are examined does this not only demonstrate that economic factors have impacted on our attitude towards happiness? Does the author offer value to the body of knowledge by adequately fulfilling the initial description of explaining how happiness/contentment has impacted on the economy of the West?
Q2: While the methods of research and some of the observations made throughout the Sutton paper, particularly around the implicit social agreements that guide behaviour (i.e. norms), make for interesting reading is there a sense that the value is in the journey rather than the destination? It is admirable that when the hypothesis they set out to confirm was debunked that they utilised the quantitative / qualitative data gathered to develop a revised position. As they note themselves this rare amongst research publications which when not answering the question posed in the positive are often scrapped. However once the authors establish that speed of service is the primary reason customers visit these stores does it not make their conclusions, revised as they are, irrelevant? It is true that “expectations of fast service need not exclude warmth and friendliness” but when concluding that “store sales reflect store pace” and that “store pace is a cause, rather than an effect, of expressed emotions” and conceding that expressed emotions would be more powerful during longer transactions is it not correct to assume that a study where there is no expectation beyond common courtesy, of say toll-booth operators, would have resulted in similar conclusions?