Emotional labour is a relatively new term, Arlie Hochschild first coined the term in her 1983 book, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Emotional labor is the management of emotion that is performed for a wage (Hochschild, 1983). For example, front line service workers are encouraged to deliver “service with a smile” or individualised attention as part of the consumer’s experience (Erickson, 1995; Hochschild, 1983; Leidner, 1993).
The practice, however, is ancient, people control their emotions in personal and work life (Hochschild, 1983). Whenever a person alters their outward behaviour (emotions, verbal cues, body language) to conform to an ideal, something that every human does, it is emotional labour. Mumby and Putnam (1992: 472) conceptualized emotional labor as the way individuals change or manage emotions to make them appropriate or consistent with situation, a role, or an expected organisational behaviour. Ashforth and Humphrey (1993: 90) defined emotional labor as the act of displaying appropriate emotions, with the goal to engage in a form of impression management to foster social perceptions of her/himself as well as to foster an interpersonal climate.
Hochschild describes two types of emotional acting: surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting is expressing an emotion without feeling that emotion (Hochschild, 1983). This is the type of emotional acting of most concern in the workplace, as it has some serious side effects. Surface acting most often involves the masking of negative emotions, such as anger, annoyance, sadness, etc., with happier emotions, such as happiness, care, excitement, etc. It is not, however, restricted to this scenario.
“Two ways that workers may accomplish the emotional labor necessary in their work role are by deep acting and surface acting (Hochschild, 1983). In deep acting, workers regulate their internal feelings to be consistent with the external emotional display that is necessary in a given situation. Hochschild (1983) gave the deep acting example of a flight attendant who imagined a disrespectful passenger as a fearful child in order to actually feel the benevolence she was expected to display. Thus, with deep acting, workers actually feel the emotions that they need to express to others. In contrast, surface acting involves masking one’s internal emotional state and presenting an, often contrasting, expression. When surface acting, workers essentially “fake” their emotional displays. For instance, an administrative worker may need to present a pleasant demeanor despite her feelings of anger when dealing with a rude customer.”
Surface acting is especially dangerous with care professions, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and social workers. When care is lost due to emotional stress/burnout, the key element of the job is gone and expectations will not be met.
Deep acting refers to two different emotional actions. The first is to exhibit the actual emotion that you feel The other is true method acting, using past emotional experiences to encourage real emotion that you may not have felt otherwise.
The way that emotional labour is handled in the workplace can differ between the types of business. For example, McDonalds has a manual describing the desirable qualities to exhibit whilst completing a service transaction (Mann, 2004). Many people provide emotional labour without any expectation, and in doing so they make the world a better place. We all benefit from emotional labour everyday whether it is the shop assistant who smiles and offers help even though he/she is suffering from anxiety or the colleague who lifts you up when you are feeling discouraged.
We often face challenges that require us to carefully control our emotions; some of us never learn how to do this, or learn that we even should manage our emotional responses.
Not everyone masters emotional labour so it is essential to practise, life presents many opportunities for practice and to hone our emotional labour and there is no better place to begin than in your own home.
Ashforth, B. E., & Humphrey, R. H. (1993). Emotional Labor in Service Roles: The Influence of Identity. The Academy ofManagement Review, 18(1), 88-115.
Hochschild, A. R (1983). The Managed Heart: Commercialization ofHuman Feeling. Los Angeles, California, United States of America: University of California Press.
Mumby, D. K., & Putnam, L. L. (1992). The politics of emotion: A feminist reading of bounded emotionality. Academy of Management Review, 17(3), 465-486.
“Consequences of Emotional Labor
Starting with Hochschild (1979, 1983), negative and positive consequences of emotional labor for individuals and organizations have been suggested in the literature. Ashforth & Humphrey (1993) described emotional labor as a doubleedged sword. The following section discusses the negative and positive consequences of performing emotional labor.
2.4.1. Negative Consequences In terms of the consequences of emotional labor, prior research mainly focuses on the potentially psychologically damaging effects on the employees who perform emotional labor. The most-often-cited consequences are emotional dissonance and job dissatisfaction. Emotional dissonance Researchers express that, surface acting is likely to lead to emotional dissonance [Hochschild, 2003], and emotional exhaustion [Grandey, 2003]. Surface acting is linked to burnout and lower service performance [Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002]. Heuven & Bakker (2003) emphasized the importance of emotion work variables on emotional dissonance. They found that emotional dissonance explains a significant amount of variance in predicting depersonalization and emotional exhaustion among cabin attendants. Job dissatisfaction Parkinson (1991) argued that when employees’ genuine feelings are masked, it leads to increase in job dissatisfaction. Abraham (1998) argued that increase in emotional dissonance increases job dissatisfaction.
Cote & Morgan (2002) found that the suppression of unpleasant emotions increases job dissatisfaction and the intention to quit. Burnout Employees in many kinds of jobs may be fisk of job burnout. Maslach (1976) defined burnout as an overall phenomenon that organizational members who frequently make interpersonal relations experience and a sequential intensive course. Burnout consists of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Brotheridge & Grandey (2002) note, workers in these jobs were presumed to be susceptible to burnout as a result of the amount of interaction their jobs entailed. They found that surface acting increases employees’ feelings of depersonalization, while reducing their sense of personal accomplishment at work. Some of the negative consequences of emotional labor have received empirical support. Morris & Feldman (1997) found that greater emotional dissonance, which is a form of estrangement of self and work role, is significantly associated with increased emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction
Although substantial literature on emotional labor implies negative consequences, some researchers have suggested positive consequences for both organizations and individuals. Organisations: Ashforth & Humphrey (1993) proposed that expression of positive emotions is related to increased task effectiveness. Pugh (2001) remarked that the display of positive emotions by the employee is positively related to the customers’ positive affect and this leads to positive evaluations of service quality. And increase sales and repeated business Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987]. Individuals: The positive aspects of emotional labor include financial rewards (i,e. salaries or tips), mental and physical well-being [Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987], increased satisfaction, security, and self-esteem [Strickland, 1992; Tolich, 1993; Wharton & Erickson, 1993]; increased selfefficacy and psychological well-being [Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993]; decreased stress [Conrad & Witte, 1994].
Emotional labor is not always considered as negative, some employees are rewarded by the fruits of such labor and consequently are drawn to jobs that require emotional challenges [Shuler & Sypher, 2000]. The reward or benefit aspect of performing emotional labor receives some empirical support. Wharton & Erickson (1993) found that workers employed in jobs requiring substantial amounts of emotional labor experience higher job satisfaction and lower emotional exhaustion than other workers. Adelman (1989) found a similar result. She found that, contrary to Hochschild’s estrangement assumption, performing emotional labor does not adversely impact employees’ psychological well-being, but enhances their job satisfaction. Most of studies have yielded inconsistent results. It seems that the confusion with regarding to consequences of emotional labor stems from the fact that different definitions of the construct have been utilized with different antecedents by previous researchers. Another reason for the contradictory conclusions about emotional labor’s consequences is that researchers have failed to take into account the importance of individual factors. Researchers have posited that individual characteristics may play a primary role in explaining variation in the consequences [Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987; Wharton & Erickson, 1993; Morris & Feldman, 1997; Jones, 1998]. Therefore, taking individual characteristics into account as the antecedents of emotional labor can help understand how individuals perform emotional labor and its associated consequences”