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Thread: Emotional Labor

  1. #1
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Default Emotional Labor

    I ran across this article about how some occupations, e.g. customer service, demand workers display a certain emotional state, whether they actually feel it or not. This subject has come up in some other threads, generating discussion of real vs. false displays of emotion and how it is received by the customer. This article looks at the effect on the employee. In a way, it states the obvious: faking it is work, and taxing work, especially if done for prolonged periods.

    The findings should give employers pause about just how much they can fairly expect in terms of "emotional labor" -- the requirement to display certain emotions or feelings toward customers, clients and others at work.

    "[Employees] could smile because they genuinely like their customers or they are simply happy, and in that case they are not engaging in what we call 'emotional labor' because they are not faking," explained lead researcher David Wagner, Ph.D. of Singapore Management University, in an email to the Huffington Post. "When they put on that happy face but don’t really feel it -- that’s when we start to have problems."
    But on a more fundamental level, Pugh thought the research was important because it accurately describes emotional labor as the difficult, draining work it is.

    "The big point of all of this work on 'emotional labor' -- being friendly and pleasant and upbeat as part of your job -- is that it is work," wrote Pugh to HuffPost. "It is hard, and it drains people just like physical or mental labor might. But it is often unrecognized as 'real' work, so people don't appreciate the difficult nature of this kind of 'labor.'"
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  2. #2
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Faked emotion is meant to deceive the victim, or in this case the customer.

    Faking emotion is the first skill of the manipulator. And it works.

    And not only do we fake emotion at work for money, we also fake emotion in relationships to get what we want and avoid what we don't want.

    Learning to lie is a life milestone of two year olds. And so we also learn at an early age to lie about our emotions.

    The price of lying about our emotions is that our emotional life stagnates or is strangled, and we may even lose the ability of spontaneous emotion.

    Losing spontaneous emotion ruins our friendships, ruins our sexual relationships, and ruins our creativity.

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    Yes it is real work. Personally I think we should accept more normal ranges of human mood and behaviour than happy, shiney, smiley. Its an added burden to someone who does not feel that way to act that way just because it makes others feel okay. I'm not saying rudeness should be accepted, but I am saying more mellow expressions than enthusiasm should be seen as normal rather than a sign that somethings wrong.

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    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Cool that you posted this. I was just thinking a couple of days ago at my customer-service-heavy job (which I just quit!! YAY!!) about how it is difficult to maintain that facade. My boyfriend and I were chatting later since he's worked a similar position and he pointed out how challenging it can be to recover in between customers, when you have someone who is particularly derogatory and essentially no recovery time to deal with the way you have been treated.

    Unfortunately at the company we worked for there was very little support in the way of backing up employees against customer misbehavior. I feel that in jobs dealing with this kind of necessary emotional output, there needs to be more support for laborers (though I feel like that is true with for-profit corporations in the US in general). I felt many times like my job asked me to sacrifice my self-worth for the sake of "customer service"... I had been instructed a number of times to lie to customers. How in any way is that a part of a respectable business, much less a reasonable expectation of a self-respecting person?

    It is one thing to be required to calmly and professionally deal with someone rude - that's a good skill to have in life and perfectly reasonable for an employer to expect - but having to respond with a happy face and agreement to personal insult and micro-aggression (I've had someone throw product at me!) seems like it should fall under workers' rights and protection. Too often I have seen employees just trying to get through the day getting punished for reaching personal limits. One of my coworkers was fired after defending himself against a racist comment. No one should have to endure racism at work, much less be punished for it.

    I also think that encouraging that sort of misbehavior on the customers' parts has negative repercussions for society at large - not to mention that it ultimately may have a surprisingly negative impact on the bottom line because customers begin to feel entitled to compensation and quickly learn that they can leverage personal attacks as a means of getting free product. Those kinds of people and problems IMO should be handled by management or dedicated customer service reps who have gone through de-escalation training.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chthonic
    more mellow expressions than enthusiasm should be seen as normal [...]
    Haha, almost nothing worse than getting jumped by a hyper-bubbly salesperson the moment you walk in the door. Besides being required to be that hyper-bubbly salesperson.

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    Theta Male Julius_Van_Der_Beak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights
    I also think that encouraging that sort of misbehavior on the customers' parts has negative repercussions for society at large - not to mention that it ultimately may have a surprisingly negative impact on the bottom line because customers begin to feel entitled to compensation and quickly learn that they can leverage personal attacks as a means of getting free product.
    I think the dude who used to work in my department who got fired a few days ago was actually doing this. Twice a week, he would call up companies, and demand a refund, using the most obnoxious tactics possible (which is ironic). It seemed really shady. Once or twice I could understand, but it didn't just happen twice. He would get on the phone and start aggressively complaining about bad service, and demand a refund. This guy was a lot ruder than I was on the phone, too, and was strange even by my standards. He also had the same first name as me, so I would get calls from people he talked to before.

    I have developed strategies for handling difficult people, or at least things that cover my own butt. It's shocking how often people will ignore good advice in lieu of maintaining an illusion of control and gratifying their own ego. You just have to be the adult in the room, and you'll come out ok. Also, my supervisor used to do the same job as me, so that helps.

    But the other side is that lots of people I talk to aren't especially difficult, if they've had a good experience so far. They are pleasant enough even if they aren't particularly knowledgable.

    Do I need a new job? Probably. But there are other things about it I like. Usually, even with a bad call, if I just have 15 minutes before the next one, I'm good.
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    Member ginniebean's Avatar
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    I find the requirement to maintain cheerfulness as a job requirement too difficult. It's not worth it for me.

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    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    As a hyper, energetic, cheerful person.. I'd say I definitely appreciate more chill, laid-back, and not angry or upset but not exactly thrilled either demeanor in workers. I don't really care if my waitress is enthusiastic--but also it means they stand out more when they are. If everyone just did how they normally do.. communicating to others that you're fine, but not necessarily lying to them about your tone either.. then the cheery waiter that cracks jokes is more enjoyable than he would be if everyone was forced to be more like him.

    I think it's important that people learn to enjoy the work they do. But.. I don't think enjoying your work has to come across as eating it up for breakfast each morning like you're a kid getting a bag of mini kit kats as cereal.

    I think it was @Metamorphosis telling me about how they always wanted him to be more cheerful as a waiter.. but he seemed to do okay (besides a few stories) in reality with just being the mechanical "Yeah, so, here's your food, and uh.. I'll help ya out if you need it" sort of attitude. Maybe I'm recalling it wrong now...
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    libtard SJW chickpea's Avatar
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    I've been asked to do this at my current job. I'm always nice, polite and helpful with customers but I've been told I'm "too laid-back" and need to act more peppy and enthusiastic which I resent.

    Happened at my job as a grocery store cashier too, I was told I wasn't making enough conversation wih the customers and was given a list of potential ice breakers, a lot of which seemed pretty invasive to me and would weird me out if a cashier were to say them to me.

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    Keeping a facade of politeness even when clients or customers are pissing you off takes a lot more energy than just blowing up in a towering rage and aggressively throwing things at them. It might not seem like it, but I think you burn more energy from doing the former.

    When I'm at a restaurant, I don't really notice the quality of service. I don't pay attention to whether the waitress is a bitch or not, but I think that when they're friendly and flirty, it comes off as sorta manipulative. I'm just there to have a clean meal cooked by someone else. I'm probably the only one who thinks this way, apparently.

    Oh yeah, and cutting people off for drinquing "too much" is very bad customer service.

    Needless to say, I usually got fired from customer service jobs because it's just so frustrating to deal with people. Most common complaint from employers is that I have to control my temper. But I am controlling my temper...and I'm focusing it on the customer.

    I'm better suited as an independent contractor, that way no one can tell me how to run my business.

  10. #10
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    Yeah we talk about this quite a bit in PT school. You want to be empathetic and compassionate with the patient, put their emotions first (eg if you are having a bad day, not let it interfere with their treatment). And then, at the same time, you have to not become too involved with the empathy and compassion that you cannot let it go at the end of the day and the patient's problems begin to consume you.

    It seems like it is going to be difficult to strike that balance.

    Hopefully (and I believe this to be true) the work will be more fulfilling such that there is more genuine emotion and less having to put on a mask than something like taking orders at McDonalds.

    Although I am sure that happens as well.
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