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Atmospheric work: A study of NHS surgical team leadership

Rosell, Tracey A. ORCID: 2022. Atmospheric work: A study of NHS surgical team leadership. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The primary aim of this study is to analyse what changes in leadership members of surgical teams in the National Health Service have experienced since the 1980s. This is the first study to explore this issue by reference to emotional atmosphere, and atmospheric work. An emotional atmosphere is a phenomenon that creates feelings and can be created by the feelings of one or more people. Atmospheric work is activity undertaken to create or maintain a particular kind of emotional atmosphere in a team or organisation. I show that surgical team-members can create atmospheres in a systematic, reproducible way. This study responds to calls for research regarding surgical teams’ contemporary experiences of leadership, and how leadership varies in different contexts. The social constructionist methodology uses semi-structured interviews, supplemented by observational data, to explore visible and less visible aspects of atmospheric work in leadership processes. This involves collective interactions amongst people and objects. The findings of the study illustrate four ways in which the nature of atmospheric work has changed and become an increasingly prominent component of contemporary leadership in surgical teams. First, a more collective model of atmospheric work has emerged to challenge the traditionally hierarchical, pastoral, model in surgical team leadership. Second, a process of ‘templating’ has emerged to create a ‘safe atmosphere’, in which people feel safe to speak up about matters that cause them concern. Third a process of ‘virtualizing’ atmospheric work has emerged from the transition from leadership using face-to-face arrangements to virtual arrangements. Fourth, atmospheric disruption occurred from the protracted use of command leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in ‘contextual contestation’: the tension which arises when people have different perceptions of the atmosphere.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Uncontrolled Keywords: leadership, atmosphere, atmospheric, atmospheric work, surgical, healthcare, extreme context, templating, virtual, technology, team
Funders: Wales DTP ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 April 2023
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2024 01:30

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