Gendered organisational and professional discourses of emotions in ‘macho’ social work: ethnographic insights

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on empirical research this paper explores how gendered discourses position emotions and emotion practices in social work environments characterised as ‘macho’. It highlights the intersection of traditional emotion-reason dualism and gendered constructions of emotions with dominant hegemonic organisational and professional norms. This ethnographic study in an English Children’s Service explored how emotions were understood and used in practice. It identified essentialist negative beliefs and a paradoxical positioning of practitioners’ emotions alongside their constructive use. Problematic perceptions of professionalism fed into notions of conformity, heroism and transgression, devaluing engagement in agile emotion practices which underpin relationship-based systemic practice. Institutionalised dynamics created scope for differential impacts given practitioners’ status and social locations such as, gender, race, age, sexuality or status. These findings contribute new knowledge, relevant to humane social work, professionalism and workforce retention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Work Practice
Early online date2 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2024


  • emotion practices
  • social work
  • gender
  • professionalism
  • ethnography
  • intersectionality

Cite this