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An exploration of the emotional experiences of Cypriot academics

Antoniadou, Marilena (2013) An exploration of the emotional experiences of Cypriot academics. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The objective of this thesis was to investigate and explore the emotional experiences of academics in their work settings. The study took a qualitative phenomenological approach and investigated the particular emotions, the specific events and situations that influence their emotions, their consequences and the coping strategies that academics use to deal with each emotion. Narrative interviews were carried out within a sample of 12 Cypriot academics. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse and interpret the collected data. The stories revealed that emotions play an important role during academics’ work making it an extremely emotional profession. Four themes were identified from the collected data: 1) Emotions, expressive ways and subjective experiences, 2) Events and situations leading to emotional experiences, 3) Immediate and long-term consequences of emotional experiences, and 4) Ways in which academics manage their emotional experiences. Based on the findings of this study, some of the emotions that academics experienced were anger, frustration, indignation; guilt; relief; embarrassment; love; hate; fear; confidence; compassion, pity; envy; admiration; and pride. The specific events and situations that elicited these emotions were related to social interactions with students, colleagues, managers and students’ relatives. Some of the events included students’ misbehaviour, managers’ leadership style, forming friendships with students and colleagues, the display of wealth from students and their relatives, students’ and colleagues’ personal suffers, competition among colleagues, and students’ relatives complains and criticism. These emotions were in turn found to be associated with a range of beneficial and damaging effects for the individual as well as for the organisation including: revenge, low and increased self-esteem, increased sense of purpose, motivation and helping behaviour, job dissatisfaction and satisfaction, and health problems. In order to deal with their emotions, academics adopted a variety of coping mechanisms including: social support, planning and preparation, engagement and education, acceptance, withdrawal, and humour. It was also found that participants make use of emotion work and emotional intelligence skills to regulate and manage their emotions. The participating academics showed a conscious awareness that commoditising their emotions is part of the job and claimed to fake emotional reactions that are considered as inappropriate. In the light of the findings, it is argued that these emotions are integral in the workplace of academia of Cyprus and require further investigation. This thesis reaches the conclusion that allowing the free expression of emotion and ensuring the tactful guidance, rather the prescription or direction, of emotion display rules and coping strategies may improve the emotional skills of academics to deal with difficult situations and avoid damaging outcomes.

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