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Står til tjeneste: Emosjonelt arbeid i tjenestemøtet
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences.
2010 (Norwegian)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
At your service : Emotional labour in service encounters (English)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about personal assistants, and how they experience their work. The aim of this study is twofold: First to examine the experiences of personal assistants and their work. Second, to examine the assistant’s experiences of feelings at work and how these feelings are managed from an emotionsociological perspective.

The empirical base of the research builds upon interviews with personal assistants with a focus on the individual and subjective experiences of the work. The data shows that the assistants concentrate on the emotional aspects of their job. When asked to describe their work situation, the interviewees were preoccupied with the regulation of their own feelings in the relation to the employer. The analysis has an abductive approach, in which empirical sensitivity, interpretation and theory are combined.

In terms of results, this study shows that the majority of assistants experience themselves as a friend to the client and they experience the job as meaningful. However, here lies the duplicity of the situation because being a friend to the client, who is also the supervisor, can lead to problems when setting the boundaries for intimacy.

The study also shows relatively stable structures in relation to the dimensions of power and subordination, where the assistants’ experience themselves as subordinates and the client as superior. At the same time that the assistants finds purpose in their job there are also challenges connected to being subordinate in a face-to-face situation. It is important to the assistants to have control over feelings and outward expressions. Feelings of subordination seem to be linked to the status and power the assistants have in society at large. Thus, how vulnerable they are in the subordinate position depends on age, gender and education. Another effect described by the assistants is a kind of emotional dissonance, where their own feelings are in conflict with how they wish to act in the social interaction with the clients.

In the final chapter the concepts of asymmetric and symmetric interaction are used to understand different types of feelings the assistants’ experience. The asymmetric interaction can trigger feelings of irritation, frustration and anger which are energy draining. Symmetric interaction often seems to lead to feelings of contentment, joy and purpose, which are uplifting and energy renewing.

As a concluding remark emotional labour seems to be a significant part of the assistants work. By using an emotionsociological perspective it has been possible to gain knowledge about different aspects of the personal assistants’ emotional labour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet , 2010. , p. 155
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2010:23
Keywords [en]
emotional labour, personal assistants, meaning, asymmetric and symmetric interaction
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-6225ISBN: 978-91-7063-315-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-6225DiVA, id: diva2:343362
Public defence
2010-10-15, 1B 306, Fryxellsalen, Karlstads universitet, Karlstad, 10:15 (Norwegian)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-09-28 Created: 2010-08-13 Last updated: 2015-12-29Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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