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emotional labor

By kubraesen Apr 24, 2015 1633 Words
In the article, which I choose to study and examine, writer Arlie Hochschild describes a term which she calls ‘emotional labour’. There used to be two kinds of labour, which were ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ but with the explanations of Arlie Hochschild, emotional labour is now one of them. What is emotional labour? Arlie Hochschild created the term 'emotional labour' in 1983, which she described it as “management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display … sold for a wage.” Or, Emotional labor refers to the process by which workers are expected to manage their feelings in accordance with organizationally defined rules and guidelines.  Another description could be that, the things that service workers do that goes beyond physical or mental duties. Showing an authentic concern for customers' need, smiling, and making positive eye contact are all critical to a customers’ perception of service quality. These types of activities, when they are essential to worker performance, are emotional labour. The writer, Arlie Hochschild, chose to give two different labour examples to explain the concept of emotional labour. First example is a citation from the book named Das Kapital entitled ‘The Working Day’ which Karl Marx wrote. In that example, a mother takes her seven years old son to work, which is in a wallpaper factory. She makes her son to work sixteen hours a day. On top of it, she feeds his son while he still works on account of, he should not leave the work or stop it. This child is an example of ‘instrument of labour’. Secondly, Hochschild gives an example of a twenty years old flight attendant trainee who works at Delta Airlines Stewardess Training Center. Writer says that, it is an amazing employment opportunity for women due to the fact that, it has a respectable wage considering that time, company provides health and accident insurance and the working hours are suitable. Young trainee sits next to Hochschild, takes notes such as ‘Important to smile. Do not forget to smile.’ While the instructor gives the training. Instructor teach and command girls to smile, really smile because according to him, smiling is the biggest asset of them. The smile is very important because it is more than just a smile, it is also the reflection of the company’s outlook. Smile gives confidence to passenger that the plane will not crush, everything will be on time and also it is the way of welcoming and inviting back the passengers. According to Hochschild, constantly smiling is not always easy to achieve. It affects employees in a bad way. Also, Hochschild mentions a company’s, PSA, commercial jingle. It says in the jingle that; ‘Our smiles are not just painted on.’ Hochschild emphasized that commercial by saying, company tells people that their flight attendants’ smile is more humanly than the other companies. Flight attendant not only smile because they get pay to do so. It is not phony. Additionally, in the each plane’s nose, there is a smile-like paint which helps the flight attendant and the plane to advertise each other but, of course this advertisement is not enough. Radio advertisements gives promises to customers that, their flight will give them a travel experience of real happiness and calm. ‘Seen in one way, this is no more than delivering service. Seen in another, it estrangers workers from their own smiles and convinces customers that on-the-job behavior is calculated.’ says Hochschild. She says, all those advertisements, trainings and dollar bills can go between the customer and flight attendant, it takes an extra effort to make customer believe. After explaining both examples separately, Hochschild then compares them. According to her, the circumstances of the child worker and flight attendant could not be more different. The child worker was a victim, even a symbol, of the brutalizing conditions of his time. Writer says: ‘We might imagine that he had an emotional half-life, conscious of little more than fatigue, hunger and boredom.’ On the other hand, flight attendant’s case is much different and enjoyable than the worker kid. She enjoys the upper-class freedom to travel and she participates in the glamour she creates for the customers. ‘She is the envy of clerks in duller, less well paid jobs.’ says Hochschild. Subsequently, Hochschild talks about a common denominator of these two kinds of work. She asks that; ‘How can they know that their job was done?’ In the case of child worker, his job finishes when the wallpaper is produced. In the case of the flight attendant, her job finishes when the customer is content. The work, which the boy does in the wallpaper factory, is called for a co-ordination of mind and arm, mind and finger, and mind and shoulder which it can be said that it is simply physical labour. On the other hand, flight attendant also does physical labour when she pushes the meal carts, and she does mental work about landings and evacuations. Furthermore, she does something besides that, something that Hochschild defines as emotional labour. This means that, flight attendant evokes or suppresses certain emotions so to conform the social norms, to do her job and make customers satisfied. This kind of labor requires of the co-ordination of mind and feeling, according to Hochschild. Later that, Hochschild mentions the similar bad effects of physical and emotional labour in the article. According to her, both of them alienates employees from not only their jobs but also their aspect of self. The child worker works like he is some sort of machine that produces wallpaper. In a sense, he has no control over its speed and motions, employer has it. In the case of flight attendant, she has no control over her feelings. There is only one feeling for her which is happiness that requires smiling. The company not only claims her physical motions but also her emotional actions. Writer says, ‘for the flight attendant, the smiles are a part of her work, a part that requires her to co-ordinate self and feeling so that the work seems to be effortless.’ Consequently, Hochschild points out that women put emotional labour in the market more than men. Jobs call for emotional labour for women more frequently. MY OPINIONS ON THE ARTICLE and EMOTIONAL LABOUR

Emotional labour is a requirement for almost every job. Hotel workers, airline flight attendants, tour operators, coaches, counselors, waiters and such. That list goes on because service excellence is now a key driver of success in most jobs, so elements of emotional labour are present in almost every work places.

It is not easy to control emotions. Some people have more difficulty with this type of work than others, and for many people emotional labor can lead to increased stress and burnout. Think about that, you are a waitress and have to constantly smile and be nice and respectful no matter what is going on in your life besides work. Even if you face to insults of a customer, you cannot stop pretending to be nice, remain pleasant at all times and you have to assume a humble attitude towards the customer. A large part of that challenge comes from the need to hide your real emotions, and continue to smile and nod your head, even when receiving negative or critical feedback. It is more difficult than it sounds. Of course, I cannot compare it with the child worker’s situation. Most people would say smiling and pretending is nothing compared to working at a factory sixteen hours a day. Yes, it is true in a way. Muscle work exhaust the body in a physical way. On the other hand, emotional labour, exhaust the mind not the body. In my opinion, people who show emotions that they do not feel or hide the real emotions tend to have more emotional distress than other people. Therefore, we cannot really say that jobs, which requires emotional labour, are so much easier to do than the jobs, which requires muscle.

Another thing that attracted my attention and I would like to say few words about is the part that the trainer’s speech to the trainees, which were; ‘Smile girls because it is the biggest asset of yours.’ What kind of insult is that!? Women are not just some physical objects. The biggest asset should be their brains instead of their smile, their appearance. Sure, in a job like flight attendance, it is important but saying that it is the biggest asset is fairly wrong. Those women can take these words of trainer and generalize them into their everyday life and it would be the problem. It may cause women to be shallow instead of intellectual, object instead of subject. They can become the slave of men’s world, men’s opinions about them which is the case in most cultures.

Also, the part that Hochschild mentions about, women have to do more emotional labour than men, was seemed interesting to me. There are women customers as much as there are men. How is it more important to women do emotional labour? In my opinion, it should have be the same. I, as a women, want to see a good looking, kind man with a smiling face too as men wants women to be. Taking everything into consideration, emotional labour is a necessity for companies’ success at these days. Keeping customers satisfied is one of the key concepts for retaining them and that is where emotional labour kicks in. Without the awareness of customer about the fake smiles and attitudes, companies retain them. That is the positive side of emotional labour but of course, there is also a negative side of it which is its effect on the employees’ mental health.

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