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Women leaders' work-caused trauma: vulnerability, reflexivity and emotional challenges for the researcher

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sharon MavinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Purpose This paper advances what is known about emotional experiences and challenges when researching work-caused trauma in organisations and illustrates learning for researchers of work-related trauma. Viewing vulnerability as strength could be conceived as an oxymoron. The paper explains how vulnerability can lead to strength for researchers/participants and focuses on researcher reflexivity in relation to one interview with a woman leader in a small-scale qualitative study. Design/methodology/approach The research protocols of the qualitative study are outlined: pre-interview briefings, participant journaling, semi-structured interviews. Researcher reflexivity, following Hibbert’s (2021) four levels of reflexive practice (embodied, emotional, rational, relational), is applied to an interview with a woman leader. Findings The paper illustrates how research design and recognising vulnerability as strength facilitates considerable relational work and emotional experiences. Researcher reflexivity conveys impact of work-caused trauma on participants and researchers. The paper advances understandings of vulnerability as strength in practice, emotional experiences and challenges of work-caused trauma research. Originality There is lack of researcher reflexive accounts of practice when studying trauma. Few scholars suggest ways to support researchers in challenging and difficult research. There is silence in research exploring leaders’ experiences of work-caused trauma. This paper provides a reflexive account in practice from a unique study of women leaders’ experiences of work-caused trauma. Implications There are practical implications for: researcher relationships with participants; demonstrating emotional awareness; responding to traumatic stories, participant distress and impact on the researcher; issues of vicarious/secondary traumatic stress; having safe psychological systems; scaffolding a process which recognises vulnerability as strength and becoming personally and methodologically vulnerable; risk of embodied and emotional impact; commitment to reflexivity, and; levels of reflexive practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mavin S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

Year: 2022

Volume: 17

Issue: 4

Pages: 442-458

Print publication date: 11/11/2022

Online publication date: 09/08/2022

Acceptance date: 12/07/2022

Date deposited: 12/07/2022

ISSN (print): 1746-5648

ISSN (electronic): 1746-5656

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited


DOI: 10.1108/QROM-11-2021-2242

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/xyvz-t559


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