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Responding to turbulent conditions: ‘EVLN’ and edgework. Session 2: Doing probation work. Rob Mawby, Leicester University And Anne Worrall, Keele University. Responses. ‘EVLN’. Exit – actual or imagined Voice – attempts to change things Loyalty - belief in the organisation

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responding to turbulent conditions evln and edgework
Responding to turbulent conditions: ‘EVLN’ and edgework

Session 2: Doing probation work

Rob Mawby, Leicester University


Anne Worrall, Keele University

  • Exit – actual or imagined
  • Voice – attempts to change things
  • Loyalty - belief in the organisation
  • Neglect – lax behaviour

Albert Hirschman (1970) Exit, Voice and Loyalty

exit actual imagined
Exit: actual/imagined
  • ‘My partner said oh it's not that she left Probation, it was that Probation left her […]I felt that the job was changing. So the national standards had, obviously, come in, '95 and I left the service in 2001.’ (FPW1, female)
  • ‘Some people, they just take sick leave or just, you know, it's like you're tired out, it's like you can't give any more.’ (TPO3, female)
voice speaking up
Voice: speaking up
  • On a mistreated colleague …

‘She got suspended on full pay but it was the stigma of that. It was awful. And we were all told we weren't allowed to have any contact with her at all, which we totally ignored. We all rallied round her, because she was more important to us than what management told us. They couldn't sack us all.’ (FPW8, female)

loyalty belief in organisation
Loyalty: belief in organisation
  • ‘I'm more.... you know, when there's talk about advising, assisting, befriending, I'm more of that person. But then again, it has changed, so you have to change with it.’ (TPO2, female)
  • ‘This guy would always be in the office, just annoying the girls, as it were, in the office, and that usually mean he'd been to the pub and had a few drinks. He did his records, which said absolutely nothing in them. He seemed never to visit many people for more than five minutes. He seemed to go home very early. And he wasn't an isolated example.’ (FPW 6, male)
  • Voluntary risk taking (Lyng 1990, 2005)
  • Some aspects
    • Threat to physical/ mental wellbeing
    • Control of a boundary
    • Testing of skills
    • Empowerment/ self-actualisation
    • Emotional intensity
    • Regaining of agency
edgework and probation
Edgework and probation
  • Liking offenders
  • Vicarious rule-breaking
  • Violence and threats of violence
  • Risky buildings
  • ‘Fast and exciting’
  • Intensity of work
  • Creativity of work
liking offenders
Liking offenders

‘I think offenders are great. We still have some probation officers who don’t like offenders. I really worry about that. At induction I say to people…if you’re meeting offenders, like them for goodness sake, because if you don’t like them, this will be a miserable job and you’ll be scared of them and they’ll know.’ (CO 15, male)

vicarious rule breaking
Vicarious rule-breaking

‘What is it about people who break the rules that is the appealing thing that brings probation officers together? I think, for me, I’m not a person who breaks the rules…I’ve got a super-ego the size of Jupiter. So I do my rule-breaking vicariously.’ (FPW 1, female)

violence its threat
Violence & its threat
  • ‘There were a couple of occasions when I was under threat but actually your skills carried you through . You learnt… how to read people and when it was right to confront and when it was right to sort of just be a bit more conciliatory. You very much relied on those innate kind of interpersonal skills to manage some very difficult individuals.’ (CO 12, male)
  • ‘[When I was in the police] you have that visible protection. All I have is my diary – that’s my defence. That’s all I have – and my tongue.’ (TPO 4, male)
risky buildings
Risky buildings
  • THEN: ‘Quite a rickety old building, staircases and nooks and crannies, and no concept of risk management, health and safety, any of that stuff. You’d take your offender off with you – very little security.’ (CO 12, male)
  • NOW: On the interview room .... ‘you have to push a button to get out. [...] it takes about half a second for the magnetic seal to break, to cut the circuit so you can open the door. So by this time the guy could be over the table and on you. So I don't know, at least only one probation officer dies, rather than all of us, I suppose is the idea.’ (PW15, male)
fast and exciting
‘Fast and exciting’
  • ‘I think I’m attracted to “fast and exciting”, which is why I liked [being in the police]. And every now and then it can be [in probation]. I’ve had emergency things happen, like emergency recalls to custody. Or the magistrate wants that oral report done in 20 minutes and you’ve only just finished interviewing the offender, and you gotta think on your feet and you’ve gotta stand up in court and deliver that assessment in 20 minutes. I like that.’ (TPO 4, male)
creativity of work
Creativity of work
  • ‘[In the days before accredited programmes] we ran offending behaviour programmes… all of which we had to devise and develop for ourselves …. A fantastic opportunity, in terms of creativity.’ (CO 12, male)
  • ‘I took one of me blokes up through the woods, because he was a bird spotter. […] I can't record it on the CRAM system because I'll get a bollocking. […] We were talking about all sorts of stuff in his life, and about offending.’ (PW17, male)
intensity of work
Intensity of work
  • ‘It was quite different [working] in the hostel. You did everything, from helping clear the rooms and making the beds to doing the accounts… but single cover at night, so you were on call all the time. I think you can do a couple of years. The adrenalin is wonderful but you can sort of burn out or get addicted to it.’ (CO 10, female)
  • ‘The pace was fast, appointments all day. You had to grab time to do reports, OASys etc. There were crises, more pressure. I don’t think anyone was completely sane. On a scale of 1 to 10 for anxiety, everyone was routinely at 7, so it didn’t take much to tip the balance.’ (PW 2, female)
  • PWs respond in different ways to difficult conditions
  • PWs responses fit the EVLN model and PWs move within the model
  • Elements of edgework can be found in probation work
  • Probation workers subvert their risk management skills to regain control over their daily work
  • The organisation benefits from responsible creativity
  • Edgework enables probation workers to regain agency and satisfies organisational needs