Sarah’s PhD is not currrently available online – The abstract appears below and it is possible to make arrangements to talk about Sarah’s work. Email
This research focuses on the career and work identity of watch managers in the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). Their role is to manage firefighters who are infamously known in political circles to possess grass root cultures that remain resistant to forms of change and modernisation. Watch managers are not only tasked with leading emergency teams at incidents but they are also at the receiving end of a relentless stream of political pressure to achieve change. This research draws on qualitative data collected within two fire services consisting of thirty-nine face-to-face interviews, four focus groups and field observations, which in combination highlight various ways the watch manager becomes an important construct in relation to the momentum of organisational change.
Previous FRS research has explored the creation and enactment of masculinities in the watch and ‘how’ and ‘why’ the watch sustains highly masculinised images (Salaman 1986, Baigent 2001, Ward and Winstanley 2006). Despite Woodfield (2016) and Perrott’s (2016) recent contributions focusing on women inhabiting FRS managerial and leadership roles, there has been limited emphasis in broader FRS research on how managerial work identities develop against watch cultures resistant to change, or in relation to male dominated ‘informal’ hierarchies in the watch. In order to manage their team successfully, watch managers show themselves to possess differing forms of managerial masculinities, and in so doing, draw on various combinations of charismatic, traditional and rational-legal authority. These phenomena highlight new understandings of the invisible and hidden processes by which watch managers attend to power tensions between them, the watch, and senior management. My findings suggest these power dynamics impact on the shaping of the watch manager’s own sense of work identity and in reverse, the ways these tensions are handled also influence the way they are socially constructed as managers by firefighters and senior managers. Particularly revealing are the ways transformations of work identity develop as watch managers move from new to time-served firefighter, then upward to the watch manager role, and how differing identity-enabling resources are drawn from to manage and keep an equilibrium between firefighters and the watch they manage.