Transnational Research Associates

Affective Relationship Organizations

Art Madsen, M.Ed.

Prior to defining and identifying the affective relationship component of any organization, it is useful to point out, in general introductory terms, that Corporate culture is clearly a multifaceted concept that embodies an intricately balanced mix of experience, learning, informational input, and interchange among leaders and subordinate employees at all levels of an organization. Indeed, the nature of interaction among all members of the firm is at the heart of corporate culture and also forms the basis of the relationships that develop and move the company forward. If personal affinities and commonalities characterize the interactive dynamics internally guiding the organization, then it can be said that affective relationships are a prominent feature of the firm’s corporate culture.

Within this context, the present analysis will, once a definition of affective relationships has been attempted, discuss several ways in which these types of relationships can enhance corporate culture, supplier-client relations, and managerial effectiveness, and can, therefore, direct the organization toward growth and success, in combination with any number of standard organizational models.

Merriam Webster Online (2001) defines the adjective “affective” as “arising from, or influencing feelings or emotions” and, within a corporate context, it can refer to the emotive nature of relationships being developed over a period of time among employees of similar or differing stature. The noun form of this adjective “affect” also embodies the notions contained in the previous definition, but also seems to incorporate, in psycho-social terms, an all-encompassing human behavioral element, as well.

Retaining these elemental notions in mind, the “affect” of a leader, for example, is of primary importance to any corporation, whatever its purpose, mission, or objective. His or her leadership style, psychological profile and overall demeanor, particularly when formulating policy or making key decisions, are all-important factors in constituting the behavioral affect of the leader. Shein (1992) cites the charismatic appeal of some leaders and alludes to this rare quality as comprising a significant element in an “affective relationship” firm. Focusing on the leader’s charisma and dynamism is certainly justifiable since either the presence or absence of it could substantially alter the corporate culture. If a leader ‘plays his cards too close to his chest’ without sharing his beliefs, visions, and priorities with his followers the affectively sensitized organization will falter and weaken. Those without a history of affect-based relationships will, of course, also falter. On the other hand, if a leader’s personality and emotive qualities are outgoing and forthright, his or her firm will move forward, even in aggressively competitive markets. While this is a gross oversimplification of the leader’s influence on affective relationships within the firm, it serves to illustrate the critical role of the affectively conscious leader in determining the direction and degree of effectiveness characterizing any organization.

Equally importantly, the thoroughness with which the leader and his chief management staff diffuse their behavioral and emotive nature to other employees is a factor, not only in determining whether the firm can be defined as an affective relationship organization, but in denoting the probable success of the firm over a given period of time. If the emotive qualities and affective input of key personnel are not spread through personal contact, through development of friendships and a sense of trust, then the firm will inevitably suffer. While not specifically mentioning the significance of the C.E.O.’s affective qualities, Shein (1992, 218) points to the case of Jones, a Founder-C.E.O. of his own Food Company, who passed away and left an enormous hole in his organization’s hierarchical structure. Because the issue of succession had not been resolved prior to Jones death, Jones’ firm suffered through a tenuous period of indecisiveness and ‘policy drift’ that essentially paralyzed the company. Some of this paralysis was due to affective relationships that were truncated by Jones’ passing, and not adequately provided for under the new leadership until years later.

Affective qualities are not only important internally to ensure a corporate culture that remains sensitive to certain values and guideposts, but they also influence external customer relations. Because of this, the firm’s success, or failure, essentially revolves around the ability of its employees, at all levels of the hierarchy, to interact affectively, in the vital interests of the firm, with clientele.

In the relevant literature, it has been pointed out that inappropriate affective bonds may lead to customer loss and that a company which has not achieved a more deep-seated affective relationship with its customers may be unable to sustain those relationships when, or even before, the legal or technological environment changes. What often passes as an adequate customer relationship, therefore, is really an unbalanced association based on inequalities of knowledge, power, or resources, rather than on “mutual trust and empathy” (Barnes, 1994). Where tying-in, and reinforcement through effective affective relationships, are properly achieved, often through mutually rewarding co-operation, interdependence and shared risk-taking, the customer-supplier relationship is likely to show greater stability and endurance (Han, 1993).

In my opinion, there is no reason that this strong affective customer bonding cannot originate, first, within the firm among its employees and then be projected outward toward the firm’s customer base.

Looking briefly over the preceding remarks pertaining to affective relationship organizations, wherein emotive content is so important in providing trust and dynamism within a firm, It can be perhaps validly postulated that, if affect plays a prominent role in bonding the firm together internally from the leader downward, this same strategy can also be profitably projected outward to the client base. To the extent that affective relationships were successful within the firm, whether such relationships originated among top leadership or were strengthened on the departmental level, they should prove effective among customers whose loyalty and satisfaction quotients will be positively impacted. Care must be taken, however, because of the intrinsic power and fragility of affective relationships not to lead the firm, whether internally or externally, into exclusive dependence on the psycho-dynamics of personal affect. Attention must be directed toward many of the other easily available administrative and strategic models that enrich corporate culture and thus ensure a firm’s chances of ultimate or ongoing success.


Barnes, J.G., "Close to the customer: but is it really a relationship?", Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 10 No. 7, 1994, pp. 561-70.

Han, S.L., Wilson, D.T. and Dant, S.P., "Buyer-supplier relationships today", Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 22, 1993, pp. 331-8.

…………, Merriam-Webster Online, Springfield, Mass, 2001.

Shein, E. Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1992.