Invisible labour: School principals’ emotional labour in volatile times

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Invisible labour: Principals emotional labour in volatile times

A three-year project to improve leadership preparation and development for principals to help them manage the increasingly complex emotional workload demands of the role.

  • Australia-wide study of emotional labour experienced by principals

  • Endorsed and funded by Australian Research Council

A female school principal with a group of parents and students in the background

Australian schools are currently experiencing a crisis in principal recruitment and retention, driven by stress, burnout, and increased workloads. An under recognised but crucial aspect of demands on principals is the key role they play as school leaders in fostering safe and socially connected school communities amongst increasingly diverse student populations. How can principals be better supported to carry out this crucial role?

Emotional labour, which involves managing one's own emotions and those of others, is a crucial aspect of principals' work that demands various 'invisible' skills.

This research study aims to shed light on the emotional labour of government school principals, promote public understanding of their complex role, and initiate conversations for meaningful changes and improvements.

Principals' testimonies

We had a challenging student earlier this year. The father was very abusive ˗ foul language, horrible stuff. And often people from the department will just tell you, “Oh, nothing’s going to happen. You’ll be fine. Don’t dramatise it.” You open the front door to walk out at night and you look to see, is it safe?

(Australian principal A)

It takes an incredible amount of energy to have people working together and harmoniously and…to understand where we’re heading and what our core purpose is… the job is actually…to get your hands dirty and understand where people are at and support your people to deliver their best.

(Australian principal B)

Have your say

male school principal standing outside school building looking at camera

Calling on Australian school principals

If you are a principal in a public Australian school, please take our survey to help us understand the pressures you work under.

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Are you a school principal?

In this 3-minute video, Professor Jane Wilkinson explains why we'd like to hear from you.

In partnership with:

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Funded by:

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