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Writing Center Administration as/and Emotional Labor

Rebecca Jackson, Jackie Grutsch McKinney, and Nicole I. Caswell. “Writing Center Administration as/and Emotional Labor” Summer 2016. Composition Forum 34: http://compositionforum.com/issue/34/writing-center.php

Abstract: Scholars have offered research and theory about emotional labor and the feeling of emotion in rhetoric and composition, but we have little if any such research on writing center work specifically. Drawing on data from a year-long qualitative study of writing center directors’ labor, this article examines writing center directors’ emotional labor as valuable yet undervalued, fulfilling yet fraught. Emotional labor was work our participants had to do—and often wanted to do and enjoyed doing—in order to accomplish (smoothly, swiftly, or at all) the other tasks on their to-do lists. Emotional labor included tasks such as mentoring, advising, making small talk, putting on a friendly face, resolving conflicts, making connections, delegating and following up on progress, working in teams, disciplining or redirecting employees, gaining trust, and creating a positive workplace. Ultimately, participants suggest that emotional labor is difficult not because they must devote so much time to it, but because they have not been adequately prepared to expect and negotiate it.

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