Faking a labour of love

I’ve just found an interesting page on Wikipedia that discusses the concept of ‘emotional labour‘: where employees are expected to regulate their outward emotional reactions so they are consistent with the company’s goals, regardless of their internal feelings.

A classic ’emotional labour’ worker would be a shop assistant or a waitress, where the employee has to control their emotions and maintain a pleasant demeanour even when customers are being difficult, annoying or even abusive.

This concept was apparently first devised by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild in the book The Managed Heart.

However, a distinction is made between ‘surface acting’, where the display doesn’t need to match internal feelings at all (as when waitressing), and ‘deep acting’ where the employee is expected to genuinely feel the emotions (like in nursing).

Apparently, ‘surface acting’ jobs are associated with stress, feeling inauthentic and depression, while ‘deep acting’ jobs are associated with increased job satisfaction.

How well this is supported by empirical evidence is anyone’s guess, but it’s an interesting concept.

Link to Wikipedia page on ’emotional labour’.

1 thought on “Faking a labour of love”

  1. I worked retail for ten years. For most of that time, I genuinely enjoyed my interaction with customers. However, I lost a job because a customer lied to my supervisor in order to receive a product for free, and I lost another job because the store manager didn’t like the fact I had health problems, and he made up supposedly customer-service-related reasons to fire me, even though I had a core group of approximately twenty weekly customers, and none of the other managers found any fault with my performance. Talk about faking it! I constantly felt stress and pressure because of my store manager’s constant nitpicking, even though no one else found fault with my performance. I always went out of my way to remind myself it wasn’t the customers’, or the other managers’, fault that I was so unhappy, but when the corporate head of HR looks you in the eye and tells you she doesn’t think the company has to abide by the ADA guidelines, that became more and more difficult as time went on. I’m now married, and my husband and I are finally comfortable enough financially that I no longer need to work, and I couldn’t be happier. Now that I don’t have to deal with the constant criticism and micromanagement, I no longer have to engage in “surface acting”–my feelings of relief and happiness are genuine

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