“Danger: Men at Work?”: An exploration of emotional labour of male health/care workers
: A thesis submitted for the award of PhD (Health)


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Men make up about 11% of the care industry (Williams, 2017), and their low engagement in this field has been associated with inability or unwillingness to meet demands for care and emotionality (Guy and Newman, 2004). Similarly, men are poorly understood in studies of emotion management within the workplace (emotional labour) – a practice associated with negative mental health outcomes (Van Dijk & Andrea, 2006). Available studies on men in caring professions largely describe their emotional performances as limited by male socialisation and directed by aspirations to "masculinity" (Cottingham, 2015; Pullen & Simpson, 2009). However, considering the multiple ways “masculinity” can be constructed and the influence of social contexts on masculine identities and norms of emotional expression (Anderson, 2009), such reductive and decontextualized evaluations typically side-line important nuances of individual emotional practices and obscure differences of understandings of between researcher and research participants (Brody, 1999).

This study examines the ways in which male healthcare workers perceive, represent and address emotional labour within their respective roles.

Individual in-depth interviews and photo-elicitation were used to prompt discussions and explore five participants’ understandings and representations of emotional labour. Transcribed audio data was examined through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for themes related to content and construction of accounts. Preliminary findings were provided to participants for their authentication and clarification to reduce the influence of researcher’s interpretations.

Outcomes: Three key themes – Identity in Care Work, Emotions in Context and Policy in Care Work – were surmised from interviewees’ accounts in relation to their experiences and perspectives on emotional labour. The dimensions and interconnections of these themes are discussed.

Original Contribution to Knowledge: This project addresses gaps in three overlapping bodies of research: gender and emotions, masculinity and emotional labour. The methodological approach enabled a contextualised interpretation of the interrelated elements of self-direction and socio-cultural influences in shaping emotional and care practices. This could address some of the limitations identified in literature on masculinity, emotionality and care work, and guide future research and related policy.
Date of Award26 Apr 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVICTORIA FOSTER (Director of Studies), JUNE JONES (Supervisor) & FRANCIS FARRELL (Supervisor)


  • Emotions
  • Emotional Labour
  • Care Work
  • Nursing
  • Masculinity

Cite this