SELECT WOMEN ACADEMIC ADVISORS’ EXPERIENCES WITH EMOTIONAL LABOR IN FORMING RELATIONSHIPS WITH UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological research study was to explore the experiences of select women professional staff academic advisors with the emotional labor that they undertake in forming relationships with undergraduate students in 4-year public institutions of higher education and how they perceive their emotional labor to be viewed and valued by their employers. Six women who have fulfilled the role of professional staff academic advisor in a 4-year public institution of higher education for at least 1 year were selected via criterion sampling and interviewed. These interviews were transcribed, and the data were analyzed using 3 qualitative data analysis approaches (i.e., constant comparison analysis, classical content analysis, and interpretive phenomenological analysis).
Participants in this study believed that their performance of emotional labor, as well as their practice of being authentic, enhanced their effectiveness as academic advisors. They attributed their performance of emotional labor, at least in part, to their desire to meet the general and gendered expectations of others, and they associated this performance with positive outcomes for students and institutions. However, participants also relayed that their performance of emotional labor exacted a cost from them in terms of energy, a circumstance that at times impacted their personal and professional lives, and they questioned the degree to which those who benefitted from their labor, particularly administrators, recognized its value. The participants also mentioned ways of coping with this energy cost, either by regulating their energy loss or by accepting their energy loss.
Academic advisors and advising administrators should be cognizant of the potential for advisors to experience energy loss as a result of performing emotional labor, as well as the potential strategies for coping with this energy cost. All administrators should make efforts to minimize gendered expectations of advisors and to ensure that policies and procedures at all levels support, rather than hinder, academic advisors’ ability to cope with this energy cost. In addition, advising administrators should advocate for advisors by publicizing the positive outcomes of their labor to senior administrators, who, in turn, should acknowledge these positive outcomes and dedicate resources to improve such outcomes for all students.