University of Limerick
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More than a class act: a mixed-methods examination of the emotional labour of Irish post-primary school teachers

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posted on 2024-02-01, 12:21 authored by Niamh LaffertyNiamh Lafferty

Introduction: Emotional labour is an integral aspect of teaching but remains largely absent from the extant literature on post primary teachers in Ireland. Furthermore, the role of teachers’ occupational identity in the formation of display rules, which serve as the foundation for emotional labour performance, is widely overlooked. The purpose of this study is to explore the reality of emotional labour performance for Irish post-primary school teachers with a particular consideration for identity and display rules.

Method: A mixed-methods approach incorporating a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was adopted for this study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 14 participants and a questionnaire with 104 respondents.

Results: Emotional labour is integral to the working lives of Irish post-primary school teachers. Display rules at the core of the emotional labour process were found to be dictated by both occupational identity and organisational requirements, independently of each other. The performance and consequences of emotional labour were found to vary depending on whether occupational display rules or organisational display rules are adhered to.

Discussion. It is argued here that emotional labour when performed in adherence to organisational display rules will have more negative effects than when performed in adherence to occupational identity display rules. These findings further suggest that occupational display rules are influenced by life experiences and exhibit a gendered division, and organisational display rules are influenced by organisational culture and differ across organisations.



  • Kemmy Business School


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Sarah MacCurtain

Second supervisor

Patricia Mannix-McNamara

Department or School

  • Work and Employment Studies

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