Happy objects at work: the circulation of happiness

Carolyn Hunter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many organisations believe that workplaces ought to be happy spaces. However, actions to promote happiness often overlook the variety of impacts emotions may have. While the current literature on emotional labour focuses on feeling rules, emotional displays and normative control, this article links happiness to materiality by exploring affects and the power relations produced. After reviewing the literature on happiness and emotional labour, this article investigates the circulation of emotions, or how emotions become ‘sticky’ to objects and bodies while having different flows of intensities. Building an empirical study of happiness, I followed the flows of happiness around an organisation and found that happiness produced unintended and unsettling intensities for employees. In doing so, I argue that emotions and their intensities are entangled with power effects of regulating affective experiences, as an affective form of relational control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-147
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • affect
  • emotion
  • Happiness
  • materialities
  • relational control

Cite this