Connecting leadership and emotional labour in the work of call centre operators: A qualitative study of work interactions and performance of Child Protection Assessment Officers in the NSW Child Wellbeing Units

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to understand the performance of leadership work that arises from and further contextualises the emotional labour of child protection assessment officers working in high-quality call centres in the NSW public sector, Australia. The study explores the performance of emotional labour during telephone consultations regarding child safety and highlights the complex relationship between emotional labour and leadership. The management of emotional display is a labour skill that is a part of most service roles, which is often performed upon organisational demand. Through the management of their own and other people’s emotions, the assessment officers educate, advise and support the callers in identifying and responding to child protection concerns, thereby leading them in practice enhancement.
This research has drawn on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 20 assessment officers employed in a high-quality child protection telephone advisory service, identifying that their emotional labour performance is more than a role-based skill. The assessment officers have become a distinct resource, leading interdepartmental government staff in managing child protection concerns. Therefore, the role has become a way of providing relational leadership necessary to facilitate practice improvement in responding to children and young people at risk of harm amongst their agency’s staff.
In the many discussions concerning child abuse and neglect, assessment officers provide leadership through the enactment of different roles and the performance of emotional labour. The findings of this study form a platform from which to re-align and re-emphasise the roles and work performed by the assessment officers, highlighting the enactment of relational leadership through the performance of professional roles such as coaching, advising and guiding callers in their practice and decision-making.
The relational leadership work of the assessment officers stimulates cognitive shifts, changes in sense-making and perception in key audiences about child protection. The assessment officers create three spaces in which they practice leadership: the spaces of safety, connection and reflection. In these spaces, leadership is practiced as assessment officers challenge existing models and values about leadership and child protection, pushing for improvements. Their relational leadership work enhances the quality of service delivery, competence and professional practice within their department.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Business Administration
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Bamberry, Larissa, Principal Supervisor
  • Evans, Michelle, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date24 Jul 2020
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2020

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