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Emotional (in)Authenticity: The Psychological Impact of Emotional Labour on the Police Officers of England and Wales

Lennie, Sarah-Jane (2019) Emotional (in)Authenticity: The Psychological Impact of Emotional Labour on the Police Officers of England and Wales. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Taking a critical action research approach this thesis examines the psychological outcomes of emotional labour for police officers in England and Wales. Using a sequential qualitative mixed method design this research is broken down into four phases:  Phase One takes a Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse analysis of selected media items that include police representation.  Phase Two conducts narrative analysis of 137 audio diary entries of serving officers.  Phase Three examines the interviews of 4 serving officers and 6 ex-officers using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.  Phase Four engages serving officers in two workshops using role play, underpinned by Psychodrama, to encourage problem solving and to identify realistic operational options for improving officers’ psychological wellbeing. Findings show that that emotional labour for police officers begins in the public arena and feeling and display rules operate in every aspect of an officers’ life, including with friends and family. The most expressed feeling and display rule is that emotional display is a sign of weakness and an inability to carry out the role of the police officer. Rules are enforced by penalising measures and are described as career limiting or ending. This results in a significant amount of emotional suppression, burnout and dissociative behaviour. Moving away from the traditional quantitative measures for emotional labour has allowed this study to capture the depth and complexity of officers’ lived experience of emotional labour. Audio diaries have captured the thinking and motivation behind officers’ emotional regulation and has identified how officers depersonalise prior to burnout as compliance with feeling and display rules. Interviews of ex-officers has enabled an association to be made between feeling and display rules and psychological outcomes. Contributing to theory, alongside stress and burnout, emotional labour can now be associated with dissociative behaviour as a psychological outcome.

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