Notes on: Vincent, C.  and Braun, A.  (2013) 'Being "fun" at work: emotional labour, class, gender and childcare'.  British Educational Research Journal 39 (4): 751-68.

Dave Harris

This studies the experiences of students on level two and level three child care courses use in the concept of emotional labour.  Expectations are shaped by class and gender.  There are a number of "feeling rules" in the 'vocational habitus'.

[A quote from Hochschild notes that the emotional labour required in particular occupations will reflects occupational and class differences, gender and ethnicity].  42 students were interviewed, to see how they were able to develop a vocational habitus [the term used by Colley and others to refer to understanding what is required in a job, how people should feel look and act, and what sort of values and attitudes are appropriate].  They were drawn from FE colleges in greater London and were taking NVQs.  Interviews also asked for parental occupation and educational levels, and the girls were mostly from working class backgrounds, but frequently with routine working or unemployed mothers.  Emotional labour, in response to expectations, is likely to be shaped by class and gender.  Childcare [ECEC work—early childhood education and care] is dominated by white working class girls in the UK, is poorly paid and has low requirements in terms of qualifications.

There have been attempts to raise the status of ECEC workers by stressing the skilled and professional nature of the role.  Emotional skills are often stressed in the form of an ethic of care, although it is not common to discuss caring and emotion openly.  Instead, various rhetoric is have developed referring to '"nurture, protection, containment" and also, of course, to indicate warmth and positive emotions' (754).  Emotions are understood in terms of emotional scripts and these are are linked to other social relations referring to '"power and intimacy, authority and self hood"'..  Clearly they are subsets of more general norms and expectations about the appropriate emotional response.  Hochschild has described emotional scripts as '"feeling rules"'.

Early work here includes Goffman on the presentation of self, the dramaturgical metaphor, and the relevance of scripts, costumes and sets.  The notion of impression management was developed by Hochschild in the work on emotional labour—how particular positive emotions are displayed in order to affect customers.  Hochschild saw that there was a high human cost, as well as commercial gains for the company.  She developed the notion of feeling rules as norms that affects how emotions are felt in particular social relations.  These were established by management specifically, although they also relate to 'wider, broader societal rules'.  Feigning emotions, '("surface acting")' is exhausting.  '"Deep acting"' works 'through fusing the real and acted emotional self' (755), but this suppresses 'the real self' and workers become commodified.  Deep acting can be seen in perpetually warm and calm workers, including '"the teacher who likes every student equally"'[quoting Hochschild]. 

This can lead to alienation and burn out, although possibly 'a middle ground of individual settlement' might also be possible.  Not all jobs demand the same emotional skills, for example, and sometimes 'relatively perfunctory levels of emotional behaviour' will do.  Public sector work might not have an obvious profit motive.  Professionals might have more say in the way in which they had very complex forms of emotional management: one study found that nurses were able to juggle their public faces and performances, so 'their emotional labour is presented as agentic and skilful'.

Emotional labour requires resources and opportunities, however and these are available in different ways to different class fractions, says Colley: the emotions look universal, but they require different 'repertoires of feeling', and these are distributed in the usual ways.  With working class girls on caring courses, there are particular expectations: they must become 'responsible, respectable carers' (756).  This may offer pleasures, but it is also labour that becomes a commodity and that might lead to alienation: it is Bourdieu's symbolic violence.

Emotion work is not usually explicitly discussed in training courses, and is normally relegated to the private sphere, just as women normally are [says Boler].  Writers like Reay have referred to the conversion of emotional capital in the emotional labour to support children schooling: she argues that emotional capital is not so closely linked to social class, but it is connected to context and resources. Huppatz (2009) has apparently identified forms of gender capital: one form involves caring, and some resources are'"aligned to the female body"'(757), while others refer to 'feminine qualities' like mothering experience.  Students on the course saw these as natural, and deploying them as a matter of common sense, something instinctive in females.  While this is a resource that can be capitalized in order to provide an income, rewards are diminished, and natural skills cannot be converted in other fields: also, men can display qualities' and behaviours stereotypically thought of as feminine, but this can provide problems, as with the three male childcare students who 'were all acutely alert to homophobic renderings of male childcare workers as gay and therefore deviant'.

This makes an emphasis on emotions 'risky', especially if they are also seen as something antiintellectual, subjective.  Emotions in care work can reinforce essentialist notions about women as emotional, and care workers can 'look suspiciously like 'the "good woman"'.  This kind of thing can assist the differentiation by gender within professions, with consequent low status roles for women.

ECEC students need to manage the emotions of the charges and also their own.  There is 'a dominant discourse of child rearing...  A particular style of emotional regulation' (758). Parents are also expected to regulate the emotions of their children, showing them how to name emotions and speak about them, in a calm and rational way.  This is characteristic of middle class mothers, and it involves intellectualizing emotions so as to remain in control.  Negative emotions are seen as threatening and as leading to 'disturbed and disruptive children'.  This approach can be seen in student and tutor interviews and texts, often using the term role model.

Nevertheless, some students found this kind of behaviour management difficult, because children do not understand the concept, or can react in an emotional way, while staff can not discipline them but must remain calm.  Apparently they perceived rules saying that they could never say no.  They sometimes contrasted their own upbringing, their own experience and intuition, and saw the approved approach as inauthentic (759).  Skepticism and resistance was common, especially if there was no chance to discuss their own opinions.  When it came to their own emotions, there was a lot of work 'to present an appropriately wholesome image'.  Working class women were often particularly instructed explicitly about self presentation, for example told to conceal any interest in smoking, drinking or sex out of work.  They saw this as being expected to be perfect, to engage in self sacrifice.

Feeling rules get codified as good practice.  In this case, they included 'being happy, "fun" and "smiley" at work, not getting too involved with individual children and treating all children equally'.  Some students also said they could never shown negative emotions, like being grumpy.  The vocational habitus 'apparently requires authentic emotional engagement' (760) with their children.  Some of the usual subversive strategies to resist managerial demands, such as the use of humour, were not available.  Colley has noticed that demands can sometimes be contradictory—detachment with nurturing, for example.  What is actually required seems to be 'a careful blend of warmth and restraint', and students constantly talked about the need to maintain the line between the personal and the professional, being authentic enough, but never full on.  We know from Goffman that the provision of a backstage area can help teachers express negative emotions and vent their frustrations.  Without them, workers can simply go through the motions, in Hochschild's phrase, or encounter 'breaking points'.  In this case, sometimes students made relationships with particular children which were then 'deemed inappropriate by their managers'.  One student reported an event in a mixture of emotional and managerial language. 

Students varied in terms of their commitment to child care as a career, but they tried to relate to the views of placement staff and course tutors, to avoid excessive friendliness, or show any favouritism: sometimes this led to anxiety about physical contact with the children.  Many students were seen by their tutors as vulnerable themselves with low self esteem, and these were the target of specific advice about not encouraging excessive dependence.  However, getting the balance tried can be difficult even for the experienced ones, and anxiety and guilt might be a constant.  If these stressful emotions are ignored, emotional disengagement can result.  Staff support to process their feelings might be required.  Other professions, like nursing, seem to display the same tensions.

Although there were some rejection of the prescribed approach, most students accepted what they had been told.  Some students only modified their affectionate behaviour.  Those who resisted most tended to be labelled as not '"the right person for the job"'.  Others struggle to reconcile the problem using homely analogies like training a dog.  Caring for each child equally was a particular problem, especially if they saw children as unique individuals.  We can describe attention as between formal and informal care, with the former being diffuse and affective, often ascribed to kin [good old Parsonian pattern variables!]: formal care is more blurred, however.  Students were already aware of the dangers of getting over attached to children or vice versa, and some saw this as a necessary 'pragmatic response' to workload and expectations. Studies of nurse training shows similar concerns, extending to how the students should 'dress talk and behave': it was seen as necessary to be explicit because the students 'are understood as lacking the forms of cultural capital that would automatically ensure that they behaved"professionally"' (763 - 4).

There were sometimes problems in relating to other adults on placement—fitting in.  Some said that they had really had to work hard on their patience.  The overall theme was the necessity of staying in control of your self 'and consequently the children'(764).  The need was to create 'a reasoning and reasonable child - at some cost to themselves'.  There are different approaches, and one is based on early childhood centres in Reggio Emilia, which [surprisingly] seems to avoid or pass over displays of intense and strong emotions, not being prepared to be so open to difficult emotions.

In most training regimes, students lacked the space to explicitly reflect upon emotional scripts and feelings.  But emotional labour is important.  ECEC occupations are seen as morally worthy but low status, and demanding.  It is hard to classify labour as either agentic or alienating - it is more subtle.  Most students found placement satisfying and enjoyable, and found themselves able to undertake emotional labour, sometimes because of their own history of school failures earlier.  They did accept the need to balance their approach to children.  However, the occupations are not well paid and often involve long hours, so this could be seen as a pretty poor return on emotional capital.  Their gender capital 'has both provided them with opportunities and attract them within those opportunities'(765).  They need to have stress reduced by being able to discuss the effects of the emotional labour involved in 'always "being fun at work"'.

References include lots of work by Colley.  There is an interesting article by Fournier, V (1999) 'The appeal to "professionalism" as a disciplinary mechanism'.  Sociological Review, 47 (2): 280- 307, and   Huppatz, K (2009) 'Reworking Bourdieu's "capital": feminine and female capitals in the field of paid caring work'.  Sociology 43 (1) 45-66.

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