Emotional Labor: The Managed Heart

Most of the time, when viewing job descriptions, many of the same qualities appear: “Demonstrated leadership,” “Team player,” “High-quality analytical and problem-solving skills,” “Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills.” However, these frequent buzzwords for the traits that come with job qualifications almost assume that emotional labor should be a part of the workforce.

In my Sociology of Emotions class, sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild talks about how emotional labor is not acknowledged or compensated in the workplace. For instance, in the American culture where “the customer is always right,” people must mitigate their own emotional reactions to the demands of the customers in order to perform their job well. However, is this a demand that should be more explicitly stated in the workplace? In Hochschild’s book The Managed Heart, she states that the “method acting” during a job can undermine the authenticity of one’s emotion. For instance, when great customer service is expected, a person in the workplace may forget to put his or her emotions as a priority. In a society where emotions are commoditized, there is less value on expressing one’s true emotions as opposed to the emotions that are expected from either customers or society.

Does this mean that the compensation for emotional labor should be explicitly stated? This proves some complications as people handle emotional labor in different ways. Since it is a subjective topic, it is hard to outline in a contract. However, that should not diminish the importance of its acknowledgement in society. Hochschild brings to light the gendered expectations of emotional labor in the workforce. While women are expected to be more tolerant and compromising, this emotional labor is seen as “expected” and therefore taken for granted. However, there is hope in bringing these issues to light. By having the conversation of the different expectations in emotional labor, there is an easier path to bring up these discussions in the future.

By: Sharon Chiang