Emotion labor at 911: A case study and theoretical critique

Sarah J. Tracy, Karen Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


This study of 911 call-takers describes the different ways human feeling is understood, expressed and managed in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of an emergency 911 communications center. After reviewing past work on emotion labor and organizational burnout, we describe the data, qualitative methods, and the role of call-takers at Citywest Emergency Center. The heart of the paper is a description of the emotional landscape at 911, the organization's emotion rules, and the communicative devices call-takers use to manage their emotion. Based upon this 911 case, we critique several assumptions made in past emotion labor and organizational burnout studies. The paper concludes with implications for emergency communications call-taking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-411
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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