FEELINGS MATTER: EMOTIONS AND RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT PRE- AND POST- CRISIS
Toth, Elizabeth L.
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This dissertation focuses on emotions in relationship management, and advances relationship management theory from an emotions perspective. This study tests the role of emotions and organization-public relationships in both the normal (pre-crisis) and post-crisis contexts. In terms of pre-crisis: (1) the relationship cultivation strategies with an emotions orientation, i.e. positivity, is further conceptualized; (2) the mediating role of emotions in relationship management is examined; and (3) corresponding to positive and negative emotions, the negative organization-public relationships (NOPR) are added to the traditional, positive organization-public relationships (POPR). In terms of post-crisis: how organization-public relationships moderate the influence of crisis emotions on perceived effectiveness of crisis response strategies is explored. This dissertation included two pilot studies and one main study. The main study used results from the two pilot studies to test the pre- and post- crisis model using an online survey. After the comprehension and manipulation checks, the final sample size was 402. The data analytic method was structural equation modelling. The major findings were: first, relationship cultivation strategies are found to increase consumers’ trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, and commitment, and decrease consumers’ distrust, dissatisfaction, control dominance, and dissolution. The effectiveness of different strategies differ. The emotions-oriented strategy of positivity is the most effective, and influences all positive and negative relationship outcomes with the only exception of distrust. The strategy of networking is the second most effective, followed by assurances of legitimacy, openness, and access. The strategy of sharing of tasks was found to be ineffective and did not impact any relationship outcome. Second, emotions are found to mediate the influence of some relationship cultivation strategies on some relationship outcomes. This means that emotions serve as a mechanism for relationship building and supports the emotions-mediated relationship management model. The negative-valent and attribution-dependent emotion of anger mediates the influence of sharing of tasks and positivity on trust, satisfaction, distrust, dissatisfaction, control dominance, and dissolution. The neutral-valent and attribution-dependent emotion of sympathy mediates the influence of access, networking, and positivity on dissatisfaction. The positive-valent and attribution-dependent emotion of contentment mediates the influence of networking on trust, satisfaction, commitment, distrust, dissatisfaction, control dominance, and dissolution. Contentment also mediates the influence of positivity on trust, satisfaction, distrust, dissatisfaction, control dominance, and dissolution. Third, although organization-public relationships may influence perceived effectiveness of crisis response strategies in some cases, relationships did not influence the direction or magnitude of the impact of relationship cultivation strategies on relationship outcomes. This study did not find that relationships have an effect similar to the buffering or boomerang effect of reputation in crisis. This study contributes to the development of relationship management theory by adding emotions components and examining the role of emotions and relationships in times of crises. This study suggests an alternative, emotions perspective to relationship management. Study findings also have implications for selecting effective crisis response strategies based on crisis emotions and prior organization-public relationships.