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Stress, Emotional Labour and Cabin Crew : Does Emotional Labour Influence the Well-Being and Retention of Cabin Crew?

By Alia AI-Serkal


The term 'Emotional labour (EL)' was coined by Hochschild (1983), and it was studied in her pioneering research on cabin crew. Two decades later, there are still gaps in research into the impact of emotional labour and the other stressors and strains of work. This thesis aims to explore new cabin crew's expectations and the reality of their role, the effects that EL and organisational variables have on them, whether personality influences EL as well as which coping strategies are used. In its opening chapters, the thesis examines the various measures of EL that are available, it explores in detail the studies conducted up to the present time investigating EL in the service industry. It was observed that no longitudinal studies have been conducted at the time of writing up this study. The later chapters consist of three main studies one of which was longitudinal in nature, measuring data at 2 waves.\ud \ud The participants were cabin crew from an airline based in the Middle East. Studies I and 2 incorporated self-reported questionnaire measures of EL, organisational variables, well being, physical symptoms, and burnout. Study 3 used qualitative methodology (based on vignettes) to explore cabin crews' actual views of EL, stress and coping.\ud \ud Study I was conducted in order to examine a broader sample of crew working in the airline (N=68), and examining if personality played a part in EL. In the longitudinal\ud study (study 2), baseline measures were taken of cabin crew expectations at the start of their employment (N=330), their physical symptoms and mental well being. A follow up (N=35) assessed the reality of the role, and whether they were experiencing psychological &/or physical symptoms. Crews' resignation was recorded in order to explore if expectations of the role predicted attrition.\ud \ud The overall results indicate that cabin crew from individualistic cultures have greater difficulties adapting to the role, as their expectations on peer support and autonomy and control do not to match the reality of the job. The longer that an individual stayed in the role, the more likely they were going to experience physical problems\ud and greater amounts of stress. Interestingly, cabin crews' expectations about EL matched their experience on the job, but the views on organisational variables changed, and played a larger role on an individual's view of the job, primarily job satisfaction, as it lessened over time. Personality did not yield significant results. The\ud experience of EL influenced well being in cabin crew, but it did not play a role in retention.\ud \ud In conclusion, this thesis has attempted establish norms for cabin crew with regards to EL, organisational variables, and stress, as well as examining the impact of these variables on each other. On a practical level, organisations may need to tackle crews' expectations about the job at an early stage, possibly during recruitment, portraying to them the reality of the role, and providing them support in being able to handle EL, stress and burnout, as this could be detrimental in the long run

Publisher: Institute of Psychological Sciences (Leeds)
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

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