Methodological Innovations Auto/Biography Cluster Winter Meeting
  • Room 102a, Smeaton Building, Plymouth University

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The Methodological Innovations Auto/Biography Cluster A/B research cluster and the Institute of Health and Community are pleased to invite you to their Winter Meeting.

Whistleblowing: emotional labour, personal troubles and public issues 

Dr Mike Sheaff, School of Law, Criminology and Government, Plymouth University

'Whistleblowing’ is disclosure of wrongdoing within an organisation by one of its members, usually an employee. UK law provides protection to whistleblowers through the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This is on the basis that individuals should not suffer damage for personal actions taken in the public interest. Despite this statutory protection, whistleblowing can produce very detrimental personal consequences.

‘Whistleblowers’ have been variously portrayed as troublemaking malcontents and as selfless heroes. Previous research has focused upon personal characteristics of whistleblowers, and upon features of the setting in which whistleblowing occurs. This paper draws connections between the personal and the public by examining organisational obstacles encountered by whistleblowers, and the resources (individual and collective) used to resist these.

The use of Auto/Biographical methods to explore experiences of whistleblowing provides a further linking of the personal with the public. Data include a preliminary report of interviews with whistleblowers who met significant negative personal consequences (for health and employment), published biographical accounts provided by other whistleblowers, and the author’s experiences after raising concerns in a former role as a NHS Non-Executive Director (Sheaff, forthcoming).

The paper draws upon Hochschild’s concept of ‘emotional labour’ to discuss how personal troubles associated with the public role of whistleblowing are experienced and managed.


  • Arlie Russell Hochschild (1983) The Managed Heart: commercialization of human feeling Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Mike Sheaff (forthcoming) Constructing accounts of organisational failure: policy, power and concealment. Critical Social Policy

A labour of love: reflections on emotion in clinical practice 

Dr Theresa Compton, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry

In clinical practice, empathy for patients is a desirable quality in future doctors (GMC, 2013). In medical schools, techniques to develop emotional intelligence (Goleman 1995) teach emotional management.

Development of a professional identity may cause suppression of intense emotions in medicine. However, in other professions such as counselling, attention is paid to the emotional labour (Hochschild 1983) of working with patients. Support is given in the form of supervisory practices. Similar support such as Schwarz rounds are still only in their infancy in medicine, but have been shown to strengthen communication and teamworking skills (Goodrich 2012). In a sequence of three linked cautionary tales, I will use an autobiographical approach to explore lessons learned from emotion in clinical practice.


  • Daniel Goleman (1995) Emotional Intelligence - Why It Can Matter More Than IQ Bloomsbury
  • Joanna Goodrich (2012) ‘Supporting hospital staff to provide compassionate care: Do Schwartz Center Rounds work in English hospitals?’ J R Soc Med 105: 117 –122
  • GMC (2013) Good Medical Practice
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild (1983) The Managed Heart: commercialization of human feeling Berkeley: University of California Press
This free seminar is open to all but registration is essential via the above link.

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