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Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance

Face-work: accounting, emotionality and creativity

Past Seminar from the archive

  • Topic: Face-work: accounting, emotionality and creativity
  • Speaker: Christina Boedker (University of New South Wales)
  • Was held: 5th May, 2011, (Thu)


Christina's research focuses on practice and performative theory in the areas of strategy and accounting controls, innovation and creativity, emotionality and accounting, measuring and reporting intangible resources, and leadership, culture and management practices for high performing organisations.

Christina is currently leading a large research project on high performing workplaces funded by the Australian federal government (grant of 515k cash). This is a 3 year project with participation from more 5600 employees across 81 Australian service based organisations. 

Christina was the acting CEO of the Society for Knowledge Economics from 2007-09, a not-for-profit organisation set up by Microsoft, Westpac and others to lead the change agenda for making Australian workplaces more innovative, fulfilling, sustainable and productive. 

Christina has been awarded the 2009 Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award; two Emerald Literati Network Awards for Research Excellence (2006, 2009); Saunders Harris’ Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement; the UK Advertising Standards Authority Award; the Mindshift Consulting Group Prize; the Carlson Companies’ Award; the MGSM’s Awards for Competitive Intelligence and HRM. She also received an Honourable Mention for Outstanding Achievement in Research and Development by the Business and Higher Education Roundtable in 2008. 

Christina currently supervises three phd students in the areas of accounting control and emotionality, company valuations in capital markets, and accounting for carbon emissions.

Christina was born in Denmark. Prior to coming to Australia 9 years ago, she worked as department head of operations at an American firm for 6 years. She did her undergraduate (1st class honours) in Economics in the UK, and holds a Master in Accounting, an MBA in Financial Management, and a PhD in strategy and accounting controls. 


Accounting scholars have traditionally approached the study of accounting from a rational-cognitive perspective. Less attention has been paid to the emotive effects of accounting. In this field study of a large global corporation, we inquire into the relationships between accounting, emotionality and creativity. What emotions do people experience as a result of corporate accounting controls? And what are the effects on ideation and creativity? 

The study illustrates that budgetary targets and annual performance reviews with corporate executives are associated with a diverse range of emotions. The reviews make people fearful of not doing well enough and even being dismissed. Yet, they also create hope and excitement and produce a strong desire for recognition, even love. Eager to please and be recognised, yet also anxious of dismissal, local actors work hard to create favourable impressions and present themselves as 'trustworthy', 'creative' and 'capable' to executive directors. They adjust, correct and perfect their appearance so that the 'right face' can be presented. An extensive search for new ideas and growth initiatives is part of the 'face correction' process. Drawing on Goffman's (1967) concept of 'face-work', we trace the many efforts and adjustments made in attempts to reduce the risk of face loss, to correct face and to strengthen face. We show that creativity efforts are intensified because a person's identity is at stake and because of the emotional and reputational gains and losses that potentially can be incurred.

We also show that accounting is inherently paradoxical; corporate executives and their performance reviews create emotional tensions, such as the simultaneous experience of fear and hope. It is through such tensions that creativity is enhanced. This is not necessarily a form of control that induces harmony, but rather a form of control where people compromise, play games and accept sometimes unfair penalties because the personal costs of not doing so exceed the potential gains and because the possibility of dismissal and failure is too great a cost to bear. This is a form of control of the heart that is more subtle yet also more powerful because it appeals to a person‘s inner self.

Download Face-Work Accounting, Emotionality and Creativity


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