Robert Kemp

  • Robert Kemp joined Oxford Brookes in 2018 and the title of his thesis is ‘What is emotional labour in coaching?’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I heard about Oxford Brookes University because of Tatiana Bachkirova and Elaine Cox, and the Doctorate in Coaching and Mentoring programme itself by reputation. My first impressions? Great building, and great tutors and supervisors.

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    The world-class reputation of the institution and Tatiana Bachkirova and Elaine Cox.   

    What were you doing before?

    Coaching and consultancy.   

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    The Doctorate in Coaching and Mentoring is an excellent way to enter into the research environment through structured challenges which build towards registration, ethics and beyond.

    Tell us about your research.

    The aim of this study is to explore the concept of ‘emotional labour’ in coaching and to evaluate its role for coaches. Emotional labour is the management of feelings in the workplace in order to meet the expectations of others such as supervisors, customers or clients. This concept was highlighted first by Hochschild in the early 1980s in service workers, and since then has been researched in many areas such as the caring professions, in clinical contexts, and in mental health care. It is noted to have a number of impacts in these contexts which potentially influence well-being. This concept, and its potential effects, has not been researched in coaching, however.

    This study intends to contribute to the literature in the emotional labour field, as well as to add to the literature in the coaching field around potential outcomes for coaches. The case is not well explored for what happens for coaches in coaching – their outcomes and their experiences of coaching. It is noteworthy that well-being of clients is an often-cited benefit of being coached, but coach well-being does not receive similar scholarly attention.

    Study participants will be required to recount experiences of emotional labour in their coaching work. Supervisors of coaching - those who work with coaches to provide support in areas of good practice, learning, and restorative elements - will also be asked to recount experiences of their own coaching practice and will be able to bring their experiences of coaching supervision in the area of emotional labour. Participants will be asked to respond to a model of emotional labour which is created by the researcher in response to the literature in the field, as well as from the researchers’ personal coaching experiences.

    The significance of this project is in its exploration of the previously unexplored area of emotional labour in coaching and its potential impacts on the coach. This may have relevance for coach-care, the supervision of coaches, the training of coaches, and potentially on the field of research in emotional labour. The work seeks to inform how emotional labour in coaching can be managed and supported given the proliferation of work in many other contexts but not yet in this specific context of coaching.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    I enjoy the intellectual challenge, the prospect of generating new knowledge, the chance to research something of importance to me, and the support of thought leaders in my area. 

    What do you think about the research training offered at Brookes?

    My experience of the programme and preparation has been excellent. I have really valued it and see it as a privilege. I like the community of fellow researchers and the tutors and supervisors are just brilliant – anyone who can get me through Advanced Quantitative Analysis deserves some sort of accolade. Being supervised by skilled academics, and those with a huge reputation in the field, is a fabulous experience.

    In addition, the programme design just ‘holds you by the hand’ and walks you through what is needed. This does not mean that there are not massive challenges and daunting activities, but the challenges come along with all the support needed.

    What are your future plans?

    Just to keep breathing and see what the tide brings in.