This think piece examines the emotional aspects of public servants’ work, highlighting the issues involved in presenting a professional face whilst also dealing with the emotional content of dealing with real people on a day to day basis.

Summary

This think piece examines the emotional aspects of public servants’ work, highlighting the issues involved in presenting a professional face whilst also dealing with the emotional content of dealing with real people on a day to day basis.

Public servants are expected to be impartial and objective and to not bring their emotions to their public work. Yet they are also expected to work for the public good in a way that is caring and respectful.

The summary points are:

  • Policymakers seek opportunities to attend public events to see reality, which is essential to effective and just decision-making. At the same time, they are seen as representatives of the State.
  • The requirement for public servants to ‘run two scripts’ –professionalism and empathy – can be emotionally demanding and distressing.
  • Unsupported emotional work and distress is linked to burnout.Those interventions that could help support emotional well-being in policy teams include: reflective practice, Schwartz Rounds and the Samaritans’ debrief system.
  • Working with public servants to explore emotion in their work, and how well-being can be supported, is needed.

The paper presents some ways in which other workplaces have tried to address the personal and organisational risks of burnout and emotional fatigue among workers, sometimes with positive impacts for the services discuss what has gone well and not so well within a team explicitly from an emotional wellbeing point of view.

Download the publication

Policy making: does anyone care? (PDF)

More details

Author: Rosemary Anderson

Publication date: October 2015

Type of publication: Think piece

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmail