Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Emotional labour
What is emotional labour?
What are the consequences of performing emotional labour?
What can be done about it?
Since the [[w:Industrial revolution|industrial revolution], western society has seen a substantial rise of automation in the workforce as result of enhancements in the capabilities of technology, leading to a significant shift in employment trends, with demand transitioning from manufacturing industries into the services sector. With this shift has come a major increase in employment requiring interpersonal skills, including face to face and voice to voice interactions (Steinberg & Figart, 1999). The importance of emotional expression is widespread across industries, however the management of emotion is recognised as a key component of maintaining loyal customers and increasing business for the organisation in the services sector (Grandey, 2000; Brunton, 2005). Accordingly, employees are required to adhere to an advocated standard of display rules and guidelines relating to appropriate expression of emotions in line with the requirements of the job role. Therefore, individuals are required, on a daily basis, to regulate their emotions in order to uphold these standards, engaging in emotional labour (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002; Kiely, 2008).
This chapter explores the concept of emotional labour, contributing to the overarching theme of the Motivation & Emotion 2016 book: understanding and improving our motivational and emotional lives using psychological science.
A fictional case-study will be used throughout this chapter to provide an understanding of emotional labour.
| Case study: Emotional labour in practice p.1
Completing college and moving interstate to commence studies at university, a young woman, Sarah, gains casual employment as a waitress at a busy cafe as her primary source of income. During training for the job, her manager tells her that she must always be friendly and approachable when interacting with customers in order to ensure their experience at the cafe is as enjoyable as possible. That is, she must regulate her emotions to fulfill the requirement of her occupational role, because one of the fundamental aspects of success in the hospitality industry is good customer service.
What is emotional labour?
The concept of emotional labour was coined by American Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, in her book titled ‘The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling’, published in 1983. In her book, Hochschild illustrates emotional labour in a detailed example of the role requirements of flight attendants, stating that flight attendants were trained on that basis that their ‘smile was their biggest asset’, with the ‘emotional style used when offering a service being a part of the service in itself’ (Hochschild, 1983, p.5). Emotional labour, as defined by Hochschild, refers to the ‘management of feeling to create a publicly observable display’ (Wharton, 2009, p. 149).
The notion underpinning emotional labour was established out of the traditional view that emotion management was considered as a private act, with the influence of cultural and societal norms determining the way an individual should express emotion (Kruml & Geddes, 2000). However, as interaction and contact between employees and customers increased, the process of emotion management transitioned into the public realm and became directly related to work and the organisation (Wharton, 2009).
Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) built upon the foundation of Hochschild's theory to emphasise the interaction between observable expressions and task effectiveness, proposing that emotional labour should be positively associated with task performance effectiveness, considering the customer perceives the expression as sincere.
Additionally, with the significant growth in the services economy, organisations have been obligated to direct attention to the nature and quality of the services being provided (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Morris & Feldmen, 1996), as the eminence of organisations is reflected through the images that employees portray, which are dependent on the quality of the service provided (Hochschild, 1983). Therefore, the management of emotional expression in accordance with organisational standard and guidelines, known as ‘display rules’ or 'emotional control', has become a salient feature of organisations (Morris & Feldmen, 1996; Grandey, 2000). For example, individual’sworking in different occupational fields are expected to display differing emotions in accordance with organisational settings. While flight attendants are expected to be polite and friendly to all passengers, the role of a police officer or debt collector involves appearing more serious and stern (Grandey, 2000).
Although there are varying definitions within empirical literature (Ashforth & Humphries, 1993, Morris & Feldmen, 1996, Steinberg & Figart, 1999), a general conceptualisation of emotional labour refers to the process by which employees are expected to regulate their emotional expressions as part of a paid work role, in accordance with organisationally defined guidelines (Grandey, 2000; Wharton, 2009). The performance of emotional labour is required when workplace congruent emotions cannot be naturally felt or displayed (Kiely, 2008).
Adding to this notion, Morris and Feldmen (1996) illustrated emotional labour as a more complex phenomenon, proposing a multidimensional framework from an interactionist perspective, illustrating emotional labour in terms of the frequency of appropriate emotional display, level of required attentiveness to display rules, variety of expected emotions, and the generation of emotional dissonance.
|1. Frequency of appropriate emotional display||Frequency of emotional display is one fundamental aspect of emotional labour. This conception posits that the higher the level of interaction between the worker and the customer or client, involving a high level of workplace appropriate emotional displays, the greater the demand for regulated emotional display (Morris & Feldmen, 1996).|
|2. Level of required attentiveness to display rules||The level of attentiveness, or directed attention towards organisational display rules yields similar results, as the higher the level of attentiveness to display rules, the more physical and psychological effort (i.e. labour) demanded (Morris & Feldmen, 1996).|
|3. Variety of expected emotions||The positive linear relationship seen in the level of attentiveness towards organisational display rules also applies for the variety of emotions that are expected to be displayed in the work environment, with the greater the variety of emotions required to be displayed, the greater the level of emotional labour.|
|4. Generation of emotional dissonance||Emotional dissonance, defined as the discrepancy between genuinely felt emotions and organizationally congruent emotions (Yagil, 2015), also has a significant influence on emotional labour. Mismatches between employeesinner felt emotions and those that are required to fill the job role generate the need for greater control, attention, and skill, and hence a greater amount of emotional labour .|
Additionally, Brotheridge & Grandey (2002) proposed that emotional labour be examined via two perspectives:
- Job focused emotional labour: the level of emotional demands in an occupation; including frequency, level of attentiveness, and variety of expected emotions.
- Employee focused emotional labour: the employee experience of processing emotions and managing emotional expressions to meet occupational demands, as measured by emotional dissonance.
Types of emotional labour
Emotional labour can be performed through surface acting and deep acting, also referred to as discordant and congruent emotional states (Mesmer-Magnus, DeChurch & Wax, 2012). While both techniques differ in terms of underlying cognitive processes, effectiveness, and consequences, the common underlying objective is to regulate emotions by suppressing, transforming, and controlling thoughts and feelings (Biron & Veldhoven, 2012).
Emotional labour performed through surface acting involves the management of observable emotional expressions by simulating emotions congruent with the workplace expectations, while suppressing those truly felt emotions that are inappropriate for the workplace setting (Morris & Feldmen, 1996; Kiely, 2008). This surface-level process leads to emotional expressions that are inauthentic and consequential conflict with genuinely felt feelings (Kiely, 2008; Mesmer-Magnus, DeChurch & Wax, 2012). For example, an employee may force a smile upon his face when his genuine feelings are that of unhappiness. Therefore, inherent in surface acting is the persistent discrepancy between inauthentically displayed emotions and felt emotions (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002). Research has found that surface acting is significantly more likely to be used by front-line service employees than those in professions such as laboring and clerical work (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002).
Alternatively, emotional labour can be performed through deep acting. Deep acting involves cognitive attempts to actively alter feelings in order to allow for a natural experience of required emotions (Morris & Feldmen, 1996; Kiely, 2008). While surface acting results in emotional displays that are inauthentic, deep acting results in authentic experiences and expressions of emotion (Kiely, 2008). Authenticity is regarded as the foundation for effective social functioning, and in a workplace context, emotional authenticity reflects interest, reliability and a stronger customer belief in employee's willingness to help (Yagil, 2015).
Deep acting can be performed through the adoption of various strategies, including attention deployment, and cognitive change. Attention deployment involves an individual thinking about past events, memories, and experiences that are associated with the emotion required in the present environment, whereas cognitive change involves the reappraisal of the situation in order to reduce the emotional impact (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002).
As the semester at university progresses, the workload significantly increases, yet Sarah needs to maintain enough hours of work to make enough money to pay for her necessities. As a result, she begins to feel high levels of stress, which in turn affects her temperament, leaving her feeling anxious and frustrated. However, she must remain polite and pleasant as a part of her occupational role. When serving customers and working under pressure during busy hours, Sarah fakes emotional expressions of cheerfulness, smiling and interacting with customers in a pleasant manner, despite her truly felt emotions. The waitress is engaging in surface acting.
Instead of exhaustively pretending to be cheerful and pleasant at work in the face of rude customers, being 'under the pump', and other employees making mistakes, Sarah decides to try to calm herself down and reduce her feelings of frustration and stress. In an attempt to do so, she decides to reminisce on positive past events and times when she had been filled with happiness and joy. Within a few minutes, Sarah notices that her anger has diminished and she genuinely feels happy. The waitress is engaging in deep acting.
Test your knowledge
What are the consequences of emotional labour?
Watch Yvonne Sawbridge's Tedx talk on emotional labour in the healthcare system:.
The primary intention of emotional labour in the workforce is to facilitate the attainment of organisational goals through the implementation of positive service experiences for the customer, client or patient (Biron & Vanhelden, 2012). While emotional labour is beneficial in terms of assisting appropriate performance in the workplace, there are also dysfunctional consequences (Gross & Levenson, 1997; Pugliesi, 1999).
Hochschild proposed that workers who perform emotional labour become vulnerable to experiencing identity related detriments that adversely affects their psychological well-being (Hochschild, 1983), with research suggesting that the performance of emotional labour leads to alienation or estrangement from an individual's genuine feelings (Morris & Feldmen, 1996), and impairment of cognitive performance (Grandey, 2000). Hochschild's research on flight attendants found that performing emotional labour was linked to the suffering of loss of feelings, diminished self-esteem, and burnout (Pugliesli, 1999).
Surface acting & emotional dissonance
The majority of psychological research into emotional labour has focused on the deleterious effects of surface acting (Seery & Corrigall, 2009; Wharton, 2009), in that the consequences of emotional labour are partly mediated by a sense of inauthenticity and experience of dissonance between expressions and feelings (Pugliesi, 1999).
When performing surface acting, individuals experience a discrepancy between the emotions that are expressed and the emotions that are truly being felt as a result of inauthentic emotional displays. This experience produces a sense of emotional dissonance, which has been linked to multiple negative psychological effects including emotional exhaustion and low job satisfaction (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002; Kiely, 2008; Biron & Veldhoven, 2012; & Gabriel, Daniels, Diefendorff & Greguras, 2014). Research has suggested that sustained feelings of emotional dissonance through surface acting may damage one's self-worth (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002). Workers who are required to display emotions that are not congruent with their genuine feelings may over time experience self-estrangement and distress (Wharton, 2009). Additionally, surface acting involves high levels of energy expenditure and results in an emotional disconnect both individually and from others (Kiely, 2008). As a result, surface acting has been found to have detrimental physical and psychological health outcomes on individual’s , including burnout, job dissatisfaction, depression and anxiety (Kiely, 2008).
Not only does emotional labour in the form of surface acting have a negative impact on the individual internally and within the work environment, the effects of surface acting can stem into and disrupt the social and personal lives of those who are effected (Kiely, 2008).
| Case study: Emotional labour in practice p. 3
Unfortunately, Sarah becomes familiar with using surface acting as her means of performing emotional labour, continuously expressing emotions artificially and suppressing her inner felt emotions, and soon begins to experience associated negative effects. At the end of each shift, while already physically exhausted, Sarah feels disconnected from herself, depressed, and 'empty'. When she meets up with her friends, Sarah feels emotionally detached and distant, with little energy to socialise and uphold her personal relationships.
Burnout is the most common and most researched consequence of emotional labour, and is associated with deleterious effects both for the individual and the workplace, including increased turnover, negative work attitudes, lower levels of performance, and reduced job satisfaction (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Seery & Corrigall, 2009).
Burnout can be defined as a syndrome of exhaustion, reduced professional efficacy, and pessimism (Biron & Veldhoven, 2012), and occurs when emotional resources are spent as a result of overexposure to interactions with customers that require emotional expression (Grandey, 2000).
In accordance with Morris and Feldmen's (1996) multidimensional model, longer interactions with customers and clients, thus longer bouts of emotional labour performance, increases risk of burnout (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002). Factors contributing to the risk of burnout include prolonged attention to emotional displays together with increased client knowledge, and strong employee-customer relationship, which in turn may make it harder for workplace incongruent emotions to be suppressed (Morris & Feldmen, 1996).
The indicators of burnout can be divided into three states (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002):
- Emotional exhaustion: Occurs as a result of excessive emotional demands involved in high levels of customer/client interactions. Signs of emotional exhaustion include depleted energy, withdrawal behaviour, and decreased productivity (Morris & Feldmen, 1996), feelings of fatigue, a sense of being worn out, depression, irritability and frustration (Biron & Vanhoven, 2012; Mesmer-Magnus, DeChurch & Wax, 2012).
- Depersonalisation: Involves exhibiting detached attitudes towards others, with feelings of estrangement of emotional distance (Mesmer-Magnus, DeChurch & Wax, 2012). Brotheridge & Grandey found that suppression of negative emotions via surface acting was correlated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation (2002).
- Diminished personal accomplishment: Demonstrated in the workplace through the experience of a low sense of efficacy as a result of depersonalisation (Grandey, 2000).
It is generally suggested in empirical literature that the performance of surface acting is more likely to result in burnout than deep acting, as deep acting minimises the tension of dissonance, thus decreasing depersonalisation and increasing personal accomplishment and self-efficacy (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002).
It is not surprising that emotional labour has an unfavourable effect on the level of job satisfaction that employee's obtain. Several studies have supported this view, reporting that surface acting was a serious source of stress for prison officers and related to lower job satisfaction, while waitresses who exhibited 'real' smiles were more satisfied with their job than those who perceived their emotions to be fake (Grandey, 2000).
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What can be done about it?
Support from colleagues creates a positive working environment (Grandey, 2000). Workers who have a strong support system are thought to be able to better cope with occupational stressors, as they are able to rely on those around them to relieve stress and resolve conflicts that are experienced as a result of emotional dissonance (Morris & Feldmen, 1996).
Furthermore, the use of workplace monitoring and feedback can be a useful tool for reducing emotional exhaustion and improving well-being. One study found that providing regular positive feedback to employees resulted in higher well-being and job satisfaction while improving emotional skills and abilities (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002).
Studies have shown that when a supportive climate is present within the workplace, employees have lower levels of stress and higher job satisfaction (Grandey, 2000).
Recovery, especially in high interaction and high stress jobs, is another contributor to the management of the effects of emotional labour. By ensuring employees are able to recover to a mental state that allows them to experience positive emotions in a natural occurrence, there would be less mental exhaustion and emotional dissonance (Kiely, 2008).
Emotion management training
The performance of deep acting is associated with low levels of job stress and high levels of job performance and customer satisfaction (Hulsheger & Schewe, 2011). Workplace training that promotes the use of deep acting as opposed to surface acting is one way that can leverage the positive aspects of emotional labour while reducing negative outcomes, as individuals would encounter less emotional dissonance when experiencing naturally felt, authentic emotions (Kiely 2008). Emotional labour should be accredited as a key skill in industries such as healthcare, and training on emotional labour management, coping, and performance should be a core component of the job education process (Mann, 2005).
One study illustrated the importance of displaying authentic emotions, finding that emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction were significantly reduced when authentic emotions were displayed in comparison to those that were faked (Pugh, Groth, & Hennig-Thurau, 2011). For example, flight attendants in Hochschild's study were trained to modify their emotions by perceiving passengers as guests in their living rooms (Kruml & Geddes, 2000).
Studies have suggested that the effects of emotional labour are dependent on job autonomy, with individuals in occupations that involve a high level of autonomy experiencing higher job satisfaction and less negative consequences associated with performing emotional labour than those in jobs with low autonomy (Morris & Feldmen, 1996; Pugliesi, 1999). While studies have shown that performance monitoring can be beneficial in jobs high in emotional labour, the perceived intensity of monitoring was found to have a strong negative effect as a result of over-extended efforts to regulate emotional expression and expenditure of cognitive resources devoted to the task (Holman, Chissick & Totterdell, 2002).
A growing body of research has taken into account the individual differences that contribute to the effects and consequences of emotional labour across individual's.
The extent to which people are able to observe and control their self-image in social interactions has been shown to have an effect on the impact of emotional labour, as high self-monitors are more skilled at identifying the emotions of others, which emotions are congruent with the environment in line with situational cues, and can regulate their own emotions easier (Morris & Feldmen, 1996; Grandey, 2000).
Therefore, individual'swho are high self-monitors would experience less emotional labour and emotional dissonance when adhering to occupational display rules, leading to a decrease in vulnerability to the consequences of emotional labour.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognise and leverage emotional information within social interactions (Grandey, 2000).
Individual'swith a strong emotional intelligence (EI) are adept in regulating their emotions, interacting in the social environment, and enabling others (i.e., clients and customers) to feel desired emotions, and therefore require less effort expenditure when performing emotional labour (Grandey, 2000). Research has provided evidence to support this notion, suggesting that individual's high in EI experience lower levels of cognitive burden and burnout when performing emotional labour (Mikolajczak, Menil & Luminet, 2007).
Occupations high in emotional labour would largely benefit from including training programs on emotion regulation in order to build and strengthen employee's'emotional muscles' and increase their emotional intelligence.
Defined by Biron and Veldhoven as 'the degree to which cognition interacts with contingencies of reinforcement to help or hinder the ability to pursue goals' (2012, page 1265), recent research suggests that psychological flexibility can be useful in avoiding the costs of emotional labour. Psychological flexibility is demonstrated by accepting emotions that arise within the work environment as essentially automatic reactions to particular circumstances (Biron & Veldhoven, 2012). Therefore, no additional energy expenditure or attention towards the emotion is required.
Derived from the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), the two main processes underlying psychological flexibility are acceptance of the experience of thoughts and feelings without enabling them to affect or determine an individual's actions, and commitment through adapting behaviour in order to reach goals (irrespective of felt emotion) (Biron & Veldhoven, 2012).
Results from a study showed that psychological flexibility was associated with lower levels of emotional exhaustion, thus leading to decreases in vulnerability of burnout (Biron & Veldhoven, 2012).
Given the role that individual differences play in the varying effects of emotional labour, the use of personality testing during the hiring process could be a valuable organisational tool to effectively minimise the negative consequences of emotional labour.
For example, applicants thatdemonstrate a high level of positive affectivity would be more suitable in the role of a waitress or retail shop assistant, than those who score high on negative affect (Kiely, 2008). Additionally, occupations that involve high levels of emotional labour would benefit from hiring employees that scale high on extraversion, as they are more likely to thrive on social interactions and act in a friendly manner (Morris & Feldmen, 1996). A meta-analysis exploring the factors associated with the effects of emotional labour found that positive affectivity, or extraversion, was a significant variable that contributing to positive well-being in the workplace as a result of a natural reduction in the use of surface acting during customer interactions (Hulsheger & Schewe, 2011).
Emotional labour is inevitable in industries that include a high level of customer interaction. While beneficial for organisations in terms of productivity and sales, emotional labour can have serious negative consequences on employees, often leading burnout and job dissatisfaction. However, a plethora of evidence suggests that the differing emotional labour strategies adopted by employees can have a significant influence on the degree of effect that emotional labour has on the individual, predominantly regarding the use of surface acting. From an organisational perspective, increasing job autonomy, providing social support and emotion management training can assist employees in coping with job role demands, and implementing effective emotional labour strategies, such as deep acting, to facilitate day to day interactions. Hiring individual's on the basis of personality dispositions that are congruent with the job role, including extraversion, high emotional intelligence, high self-monitoring and psychological flexibility, can aid functionality in the workplace and significantly reduce the detrimental effects of emotional labour.
- Emotion (Wikipedia)
- Emotional Intelligence and Job Performance (Book chapter, 2016)
- Emotional Labour: Dimensions, Antecedents & Consequences (Book Chapter, 2015)
- Emotional Self-Regulation (Book chapter, 2013).
- Empathy (Wikipedia)
- Interpersonal Emotion Regulation (Wikipedia)
- Motivation (Wikipedia)
- Regulation of Emotion (Wikipedia)
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- Medical healthcare professionals need empathy too.
- Managing the Hidden Stress of Emotional Labor
- Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MMPI)!
- How do you rate on extraversion? Take the Big Five personality test and find out!
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Acceptance and Action Questionnaire
- Burnout Test: Check yourself for burnout
- Emotional Labor: Helping Workers Present a Positive Face
- Learn more about depersonalisation.