Enhancing positive work relationships and the school environment : an exploratory case study of teachers' emotions : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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The experience of work life is saturated with feelings or emotions (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995). For humans, as with any social animals, our survival and day to day functioning rely heavily on the communication and perception of emotions (Ashkanasy, Härtel, & Zerbe, 2000b). When attention is paid to increasing awareness and understanding of emotion in our work lives, and how those emotions affect others, there is potential to improve interpersonal interactions and develop more positive, supportive work relationships. The work environment is largely dependent on the quality of these relationships and connections between organisational members (Carmeli, 2009). Despite the centrality of work relationships within organisations, researchers are yet to fully understand the dynamics and the processes that nurture and sustain positive interpersonal relationships at work (Ragins & Dutton, 2007). Collegial relationships are particularly important in organisations such as schools, where the way that staff interact with one another not only affects their job performance and the quality of their work life, but also the lives and learning abilities of their students. The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding how collegial interactions, relationships, and the school environment may change when staff are trained in emotional skills. This research was a smaller, parallel study contributing to a larger three year project – Te Aniwaniwa: Warming up the Classroom Emotional Environment. A mixed method approach utilised quantitative information from questionnaires to assess the school environment and morale, and qualitative information from weekly diaries of emotional interactions and semi-structured interviews. All of the teaching and support staff from a local primary school attended workshops to enhance their emotional skills based on the Harvey-Evans (2003) model of the classroom emotional environment. Although statistical analyses were not sensitive enough to detect changes in quantitative data from questionnaires due to a small sample size (N=18), qualitative information collected from weekly diaries and interviews suggested that staff were noticing changes to their day to day interactions with one another and improvements to their professional relationships. Interview themes highlighted some of the day to day behaviours and expectations that may be important in laying solid foundations on which positive relationships can be built. By delivering training to individuals within School A to enhance their emotional skills, this programme encouraging the development of an atmosphere where emotions could be expressed, understood and managed more effectively. The implications of these results are not necessarily restricted to management and staff relationships in schools but may also be extended to other occupational settings where individuals are required to support one another and share ideas and resources.
Organisational psychology, Interpersonal relationships, Teachers, Emotion, Emotional skills