RR610 - The nature, causes and consequences of harm in emotionally-demanding occupations

Traditional approaches to understanding psychosocial job characteristics and well-being have been quite general in that they explore links between general job characteristics such as workload and control on workers in many different sorts of occupations. One example of a more specific approach can be found in research into emotional labour - the requirement to regulate both feelings and the expression of feelings for organizational goals. Early research into emotional labour focused on customer service workers (CSW) but has more recently also considered human service workers (HSW) such as nurses and social workers. A more specific approach to thinking about the outcomes of demanding psychosocial job characteristics can be found in research on burnout which is thought to have three elements: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (also labelled cynicism), and (low) accomplishment (also called professional efficacy). Much recent research has started to explore the links between emotional demands and burnout. The main aim of this project is therefore to explore the nature of such links through undertaking three distinct tasks. The first is a literature review of evidence and theory while the second two tasks comprise two empirical studies examining several key issues in burnout research.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2021-04-22