Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using Participatory Action Research and Photo Methods to Explore Higher Education Administration as an Emotional Endeavor

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using Participatory Action Research and Photo Methods to Explore Higher Education Administration as an Emotional Endeavor

Article excerpt

Arlie Hochschild (1979, 1983) introduced the theory of "emotional labor" to describe how the display and containment of particular emotions, although unacknowledged, was part and parcel of one's work expectations. Of this, Hochschild wrote "when the manager gives the company his enthusiastic faith, when the airline stewardess gives her passengers her psyched-up but quasi-genuine reassuring warmth, what is sold is an aspect of emotional labour power" (p. 569). Since Hochschild first introduced the theory, emotional labor in the work place has been solidified as a line of scholarly inquiry (Doughtery & Drumheller, 2006; Fineman, 2000), particularly among those who study large corporate and private industries (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Fisk & Friesen, 2012).

However, few scholars have considered universities as work places that involve emotional labor (Miller, 2001; Woods, 2010, 2012). This is particularly true in the scholarship that addresses higher education administration. A review of literature on higher education administration yields three overarching themes that describe higher education administrators and their practice: (a) an overly rational account of organizational life (Kezar & Carducci, 2007; Leathwood & Hey, 2009; Owens, 1991); (b) a heroic, andocentric depiction of administration (Bensimon, 1995; Kezar & Lester, 2009); and/or (c) a structural heaviness and managerial culture that bears down on leader actions (Davies & Bansel, 2005; Rhoades, 2001). Reference to emotion is almost entirely absent among the higher education administration literature. Yet, other studies illustrate that higher education administration, especially the role of department chairs, is fraught with tension (Benoit, 2005), which suggests that emotions are likely to be a part of their work experience (Fisk & Friesen, 2012).

To this end, the purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance and relevance of the consideration of emotion through a case study of one department chair at a doctoral granting university in the U.S. Because our research concerns lean heavily into subjective concerns, knowledge, and experiences, we utilized Participatory Action Research (PAR) and photo-elicitation methods (Guillemin & Drew, 2010; Harper, 2002; Metcalfe, 2012; Wang & Burris, 1997). To this point, Woods (2012) urged scholars to resist mainstream and/or positivistic approaches in studies of emotion in order to honor the complexities of the topic. According to Woods, emotion goes farther and deeper than affect, which is often studied with a psychological understanding of human life, where scholars control for life's many variables and isolate personal reports of satisfaction or stress.

In other words, studies of emotion and emotional labor assume that both are relational, contextual, and inherently social phenomena. Sieben and Wettergren (2010) explained that, "emotions do not 'happen' to people ... but are part and parcel of the social and cultural world we live in" (p. 36). Thus, studies of emotion and emotional labor are not simply about rating one's personal sense of happiness, but they are intended to understand how such happiness is explicitly or implicitly expected via norms and conventions, leveraged by organizational peers/leaders and used for organizational purposes (Fisk & Friesen, 2012). To this point, most scholars of emotional labor argue that emotion and emotional labor are rarely acknowledged as labor in and of itself. Thus, we are of the perspective that if we can conceptualize and understand emotion and emotional labor as a form of labor compelled by organizational norms and rules, even tacitly, it becomes possible to consider how organizations can and should better acknowledge this aspect of labor and support individuals in these facets of work life (Brief & Weiss, 2002; Fisk & Friesen, 2012). Furthermore, if we position emotional labor as a topic pertaining to organizational leaders, then work, like ours, provides important insights for those who are involved in the preparation of leaders, such as educational leadership faculty. …

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