Don’t calm down: From individual affect regulation to collective affect elevation in startups


Prior research has explored how people may avoid the negative consequences of strong moods and emotions by controlling or down-regulating their feelings. However, affect (moods and emotions) also represent information, and this information may become blurred or lost of people regulate their moods and emotions too actively. By studying five startups over 22 months, we develop a theoretical framework – affect elevation – that show how startup team members use each other’s moods and emotions as resources for developing their product and ways of working. Affect elevation describes how startup team members leveraged the information value of each other’s moods and emotions by 1) expressing their feelings openly, 2) meeting expressions of moods and emotions with curiosity, and 3) engaged in problem-focused coping in order to address the root causes of their stress and frustration by developing their startup. The insights from our framework contribute to research on affect regulation and organisational learning. Specifically, we challenge the view that moods and emotions are best dealt with through regulation, suggesting affect elevation as a way to deal with affect in order to foster organisational learning in startups.