The relational work of compassion and toxicity at a pupil referral unit



Bolton S & Laaser K (2021) The relational work of compassion and toxicity at a pupil referral unit. Organization, 28 (6), pp. 976-992.

This article contributes to the literature on compassion in organisations by exploring, through the sociology of relational work, how compassion emerges against the backdrop of what is described as structural toxicity; that is, structures, policies and practices that create the material stage upon which compassion may, or may not, materialise. Underfunding, social deprivation and draconian performance measures are all examples of structural toxicities that may trigger relational toxicity, that is conflict, suffering and disconnection at work but also where compassion may emerge in various forms. It is against this backdrop that we seek to address the conceptual and empirical gap in current understandings of compassion in organisations. Theorising from the empirical field, a case is presented in which compassion emerges as a product of the ongoing relational work of teachers in response to structural toxicities that trigger repeated instances of emotional pain and suffering but also joy and engagement with their work and each other.

Compassion strategy; performance management; pupil referral unit; relational work; structural toxicity; teachers

Organization: Volume 28, Issue 6

Publication date30/11/2021
Publication date online16/05/2021
Date accepted by journal26/02/2021

People (2)


Professor Sharon Bolton

Professor Sharon Bolton

Emeritus Professor, Management, Work and Organisation

Dr Knut Laaser

Dr Knut Laaser

Lecturer, Management, Work and Organisation