Sigal Barsade: The Power of Emotions

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Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade, who passed away in February, was a leading researcher on the role that emotions play in the workplace.

She was an award-winning teacher and scholar whose work focused on organizational behavior and culture, unconscious bias, leadership, and organizational change. But it was her preeminent work on emotions in organizations that vaulted her scholarship and made her a sought-after expert with global corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the news media.

Barsade pioneered research on what is known as the affective revolution, which is the study of how emotions shape workplace culture and influence the performance of both individual employees and teams. Her numerous papers delved into the full range of emotions at work, including loneliness, isolation, fear, compassion, happiness, and contempt.

Wharton Deputy Dean Nancy Rothbard said Barsade’s work was revolutionary in that it helped businesses to acknowledge the role that emotions play in the office and to learn to harness their power for good.

“When you think about business, the kneejerk reaction is to say that emotions don’t belong in business. But her motivation to study this topic involved educating people about why emotions absolutely are a part of business, and the only way to succeed is to recognize and understand that they are affecting you,” she said.

Barsade earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California-Los Angeles and her doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Management. She taught at Yale University for a decade before joining Wharton in 2003.

Knowledge@Wharton remembers Barsade with a collection of stories below that recap her insights and research. You can read Wharton’s in memoriam tribute to Barsade here.

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