Discovering Emotional Labour

Topics: Emotion, Emotional labor, Arlie Russell Hochschild Pages: 5 (1462 words) Published: April 20, 2012
Discovering Emotional Labour

Emotional work is the control of a person’s feeling in order to display the appropriate emotions to others in different situations (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.7). In other words, a person has to put aside his or her own feelings and shows the right emotions in the right place at the right time. This concept can be applied to many aspects of our daily life and when used in terms of it being sold for a wage, Hochschild (1983) define it as emotional labour. By focusing on the service industries, this essay will discuss Hochschild’s account of emotional labour and look into certain areas of concern caused by it.

Although the practice of emotional work can be link all the way back to the ancient time, the term emotional labour is considered to be relatively new and is first discussed in Arlie Hochschild’s (1983) book, “The Managed Heart”. With the rise of the post-industrial work, there had been a significant increase of the service sector during the late 1900s (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.9). In fact, one now interacts with other individuals rather than working with a machine (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.9). Thus, this gives rise to the importance of interpersonal skills and the use of emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.9). Whenever a person changes his or her emotions, tone, body language, etc. to conform to an ideal, it is considered as emotional labour (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.7). It is practiced widely in many forms of modern work. A flight attendance smiling warmly while serving each and every passengers, a café barista showing enthusiasm when making coffee, and a nurse showing care and concern when helping a patient. All of the above are examples of emotional labour. With it being a major part of our behavior today, it is vital that we look more deeply to understand how emotional labour works.

Hochschild discussed two types of emotional acting: surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting is the act of putting on or showing an emotion without truly feeling that emotion inside oneself (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.35). This means that one has to suppress his or her negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, boredom, etc., and display positive emotions, such as happiness, care, excitement, etc. There have been concerns being brought up regarding the use of surface acting, as it can lead to serious side effects such as depression.

On the other hand, deep acting is the act of putting on an emotion that one truly feels inside (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.35). This is done either by showing the emotion that we really feel or by true method acting. True method acting works by thinking of our past experiences we try to encourage the real emotion that we may not have felt otherwise (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.38). In terms of emotional labour, we are often referring to true method acting which is very much similar to surface acting, one lacks the freedom to genuinely display his or herself during work.

“Now girls, I want you to go out there and really smile. Your smile is your biggest asset. I want you to go out there and use it. Smile. Really smile. Really lay it on (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.4).” A pilot tells the above to the trainees of Delta Airline Stewardess Training Center. This clearly shows how much the airline focuses on the value of a personal smile to reflect it company’s identity rather than its flight safety or the punctuality of its flight departures and arrivals (Hochschild, 1983: Pg.4). Another good example would be the baristas working in the world largest café chains, Starbucks Coffee being remained consistently by their managers to provide customers with the “Starbucks Experience”. Baristas are told to put up a cheerful and enthusiastic front, connect with the customers and to develop the say “yes” attitude. In fact, beside Starbucks, many other food and beverage businesses today have already move on to focus on their customer service rather than focusing solely on the quality and taste of their products....
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