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Formal and informal organisation and induction into education& care settings.

Institutions that provide care and education for young people place heavy emotional demands on staff members. In this essay we use some concepts from the sociology of work and organisations to understand the idea of formal and informal culture in the workplace and examine the ways in which informal organisation can promote or harm the interests of young people. Induction is the first point at which an organisation can establish its formal agenda for working with young people and supporting staff. If this work is not done well informal the institution may be dominated by informal and ineffective work culture. . It is based mainly on the work of Noon and Blyton , The Realities of Work, 2002

Alienation and participation

An important idea in the sociology of work is the proposition that the worker may feel alienated or detached from the work process. The chart below is based on the writing of Blauner who identified four ways in which a worker might feel alienated in the work process. He speaks of, powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation and self-estrangement. These concepts are further described in figure I below.


|Alienation |Definition |Key Indicators/Measures |Freedom |
| | | |(non-alienation) |
|1. Powerlessness |Employee is controlled and |Extent of control over the |Autonomy (empowerment) |
| |manipulated by others or by an|conditions of employment | |
| |impersonal system (such as |Extent of control over the immediate| |
| |technology) and cannot change |work process: | |
| |or modify this domination |pace of work | |
| | |method of work | |
|2. Meaninglessness |Employee lacks understanding |Length of work cycle |Purposefulness |
| |of the whole work process and |Range & variety of tasks | |
| |lacks sense of how their own |Completeness of task | |
| |work contributes to the whole.| | |
|3. Isolation |Employee experiences no sense |Type and extent of social |Belonging |
| |of belonging in the work |interaction | |
| |situation and is unable of |formal | |
| |unwilling to identify with the|informal | |
| |organisations and its goals | | |
|4. Self-estrangement |Employee gains no sense of |Instrumental attitudes |Self-expression |
| |identity or personal |‘Clock watching’ | |
| |fulfilment from work, and this|Expressions of boredom | |
| |detachment means that work is | | |
| |not considered a worthwhile | | |
| |activity in its own right. | | |

(chart taken from Noon & Blyton 2002)

The chart is designed to cover all occupations; however, anyone who has worked in a setting involving education and care will have come across “clock-watching”, colleagues who do not see the point in some policy of procedure that has been introduced. The extent to which these feelings are expressed depends on lots of factors. It is important to note that different employees or groups of employees may feel differently about the same institution. For instance it is quite common for teaching staff and teaching assistants to have different feelings of autonomy and belonging in a school.

Informal work culture – “making out” and “soldiering”.

In all institutions colleagues help each other out, and “show the ropes” to new colleagues. Some of this mutual aid may involve showing colleagues how to take short-cuts around irksome procedures or explaining which policies or managers are helpful and which are not. This may develop into what is known in the sociology of work as, “making out” or “soldiering”. The original research behind this term was carried out on an industrial shop-floor and showed how shop-floor workers would look for ways to regulate the work process in ways which allowed workers to reassert some control over their working day. In describing the activities engaged in by these workers it was suggested that some of the motives at play were:

• The reduction of fatigue
• The desire to pass time
• The relief of boredom
• The social and psychological rewards of making out on a tough job;
• The social stigma and frustration of failing to ‘make out’ on an easy job.

Soldiering can take a number of forms in care and education settings. For example, managers in stressed schools often report that staff absence increases dramatically in mid-winter, and will often report that some staff are poor at filling in registers or carrying out playground duties. The high drop-out rate of newly trained teachers is clearly an expression of dissatisfaction with the job. Looked at from the perspective of the sociology of work, such behaviours can be regarded as attempts to limit work and win back autonomy.

Emotion Work

Phenomena like “soldiering” and “making out” were originally studied in industrial settings. We can see the reflections of such behaviours in settings like schools and nurseries, especially when the institution is under pressure or is failing in some way, but they are usually considerably reduced by the fact the many staff feel a professional attitude towards their job as well as a commitment to the children they care for. Many staff in nurseries and schools talk about the need to do “that little bit extra” or refer to the job as a full-time commitment. However, there is another aspect to the job that can lead employees to become disillusioned or to experience “burn out”.

The term “emotion work” refers to the fact that in many jobs employees have to behave in a certain way even if it conflicts with their feelings. Pioneering work in this area was undertaken by researchers looking at how cabin crew are expected to behave on airlines.

“Even though I’m a very honest person, I have learned not to allow my face to mirror my alarm or my fright. I feel very protective of my passengers. Above all, I don’t want them to be frightened. If we were going down, if we were going to make a ditching in the water, the chances of our surviving are slim even though we (the flight attendants) know exactly what to do. But I think I would probably - and I think I can this for most of my fellow flight attendants – be able to keep them from being too worried about it.” (Delta Airlines flight attendant quoted in Hochschild, 1983:107 – cited in Noon & Blyton 2002)

Now this is a rather more extreme example than we are likely to encounter in nurseries or schools, although such institutions can throw up extreme episodes. The point here is the gap between how the employee feels and how they are expected to behave. Writers in this area speak of emotional labour as “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display”. Others speak of emotional labour as involving the management of other people’s feelings as well as our own. The intensity of emotional labour required will vary from situation to situation and time to time.

“The metaphor of the theatre and its component terms such as actor, performance, role, script and being ‘on’ and’ off’ stage, can usefully be applied to an analysis of emotional labour, and the display rules of emotional conduct. At the same time, from a dramaturgical perspective, emotional labour can be seen as a variant of what already occurs in most other social contexts. In jobs requiring emotional labour, employees perform a particular emotion script, just as in other settings individuals perform other emotion displays, some of which are likely to be as inauthentic as those indicated by the check-out operator earlier, who is required to smile even at rude customers. The key difference between these work and other settings, however, lies in the fact that those employees performing emotional labour are required to follow what Eckman (1973) and Ashforth and Humphrey 1993: 89) term the ‘display rules’ , as part of their job”. (Noon & Blyton 2002:177)

Dimensions of emotional labour

This concept of emotional labour helps us to focus clearly on several issues. These are;
How do you train people to do emotional labour?
What are the different ways emotional labour can be done?
When does emotional labour become a problem?
What coping strategies can employees use?

How do you train people to do emotional labour?

This is long process that involves ongoing CPD but it is it is obvious that employees need to know what emotional work is expected of them and how to do it. This is an issue that has to be dealt with from the outset. Inductions will be different in different settings. For example in nurseries it is customary for new staff to spend periods of time in different age group rooms under the guidance of the supervisor for that area. School teachers will be observed and coached a number of times throughout their first years. However, where that coaching is not done properly, staff are likely to be confused as to what is expected of them.

What are the different ways emotional labour can be done?

Noon and Blyton describe three ways of doing emotional work which correspond to different levels of commitment to and understanding of the job.


| Different ways of doing emotional labour |
|Surface Acting |Behavioural compliance with the display rules without any |
| |attempt being made to internalise these rules: the emotions are|
| |feigned or faked. |
|Deep Acting |Employees internalise their role more thoroughly in an attempt |
| |to “experience” the required emotion. |
|Congruence |No need to act as the emotion is in harmony with what the |
| |individual would have naturally displayed as part of their own |
| |identity |

Quite frequently staff new to a job can do no more than engage in surface acting. Probably most staff working in education and care settings engage in “deep acting”. They may not always feel genuinely positive towards all the young people they are working with but as many colleagues put it, when you come to work you “put on” the job and the attitudes that go with it. It may take a particular combination of personality, setting, training and luck to produce the third situation, where an employee is operating “naturally”.

When does emotional labour become a problem?

Emotional labour will tend to become a problem when either its duration or intensity increases. Many institutions experience difficult times when everyone seems “browned-off”. Staff may wish that the week or the term was over and this may stem from the difficulty of maintaining an appropriate set of behaviours for as sustained period of time.

Alternatively, stress may arise because there is a sharp difference between the way an employee feels and how they are expected to behave. Perhaps a child is very rude, or a parent is challenging and offensive.

If we are working in situations where duration and intensity are present, then we need coping strategies.

What coping strategies can employees use?

Workers engaged in emotional work may adopt a whole number of strategies for coping with emotional pressure. One important one is retiring from a situation to let off steam. Sometimes this may involve simply turning one’s back or surreptitiously making eye contact with a colleague. Such strategies may remind us of the importance teachers attach to team teaching or nursery workers attach to having two adults present to provide emotional support.

Not all coping strategies are positive in terms of the job, for example the waiter who adulterates the offensive customer’s food in some way, or the sales assistant who manages to look in all directions except at the loud customer who is demanding their attention. Equivalent responses in education settings may be raised rates of exclusion or inappropriate labelling of children.

Work culture.

The ideas and literature reviewed in this essay may seem rather bleak. The sociology of work and organisations has its origins in and is primarily concerned with situations where people work for employees who are wish to get as much work, emotional or other wise, out of them as possible. In these circumstances, employees find ways of reasserting control and reducing their output. The practices and attitudes that arise from these attempts constitute the informal culture of the organisation.

In practice in many jobs the picture is not so bleak as the theory might suggest – many people get pleasure and meaning from their work and the workplace for many people is also a site for friendships and social activity. Work can also offer personal and professional advancement.

This can be particularly true in education and care settings where many people find their work absorbing and worthwhile.

However, when we come to consider the idea of emotional labour or to look at the strains and stresses that can exist in institutions working with young people and their parents our attention is again drawn to the idea of informal culture and to the extent to which the institution provides its workers with emotional support as opposed to the extent it colludes with or create an informal culture within the organisation.


References and further reading.

Noon and Blyton 2002 , The Realities of Work, Palgrave
Blauner, R (1964) Alienation & Freedom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press
Hochschild, A.R. (1979) Emotion work, feeling rules and social structure’, American Journal of Sociology, 85 (3):551 - 75

What is the meaning of informal education? Informal education is when you are not studying in a school and do not use any particular learning method. In this type of education, conscious efforts are not involved. It is neither pre-planned nor deliberate. It may be learned at some marketplace, hotel or at home.