Maintaining order through deviance? the emotional deviance, power, and professional work of municipal court judges

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40 Scopus citations


This study examines the intersection of power, professional work, organizing, and emotional deviance at two municipal courthouses in the United States. A variety of qualitative methods including observation, shadowing employees, informal interviewing, and semi-structured respondent interviews were used to collect the data. A total of twelve municipal court judges were observed during arraignments, pre-trial conferences, and trials, and four of these judges participated in member checking interviews for a total of sixteen in-depth, audio-recorded interviews.This article centers on emotional deviance, or the expression of emotion that occurs when employees disregard feeling rules and express emotions that do not align with organizational expectations. In the case of judges who are mandated to be rational and neutral, emotional deviance becomes a distinctive advantage. Furthermore, the findings of this piece suggest that professional work is actually quite emotional and it also introduces the concept of privileged deviance to describe the ways in which deviance is related to power and specific verbal and nonverbal communicative behaviors. The article ends by discussing implicit and explicit privileged deviance and offers practical implications related to the training of municipal court judges and the mandates to process cases quickly while still fostering a high level of defendant satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-310
Number of pages28
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011


  • emotional deviance
  • emotional labor
  • municipal court judges
  • power
  • professional work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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