The Managed Heart Summary

Topics: Emotion, Emotional labor, Flight attendant Pages: 5 (1468 words) Published: May 10, 2015


The Managed Heart

Although originally written in 1983, The Managed Heart is still an up to date look at an interesting concept: combining emotional feelings with the work one does. At first glance, the notion that emotions may have an impact on one’s work environment seems almost a non-issue. However, Hochschild is not saying that; rather, Hochschild looks at the effect of emotions in the workplace, but also the interaction of those emotions with the work itself. The author’s interest in this topic began at an early age, 12, when she recounts an event in her life: her parents, part of the U.S. Foreign Service, entertained diplomats. Hochschild describes the question that came to her mind as she looked up into the smiling face of a diplomat: was the smile real, or that of an actor, assuming a particular role expected of them in a specific situation? (ix) This puzzlement led the author from C. Wright Mills’ theory of how one sells their personality to Goffman’s theories of how one tries to control their appearance before others in an effort to observe rules as to how one should appear to others. For Hochschild however, there was still an integral part of the puzzle missing, which led her on the quest of exactly where and how do our emotions play a role in what we do day in and day out.

This question led Hochschild to act as an observer while conducting ethnographical research in the lives of those in the service industry: flight attendants and bill collectors. Hochschild observed how flight attendants feelings were stifled, at great cost to the personal self in an effort to use the right emotions needed for their job.  Training sessions at Delta hammered in the reminders to smile: “Your smile is your biggest asset…smile. Really smile. Really lay it on. (p 4)” They are paid to smile; that smile is more than just offering a cup of coffee or bag of peanuts to a guest. That smile becomes the representation of the company, in this instance, Delta, and with that smile, they are not just selling coffee and peanuts, but the reputation of the corporation as well. It is their smile that acts as reassurance to the passengers that they are safe; the plane is safe; their trip will be safe. Emotional labor, a term coined by Hochschild, refers to the suppression of one’s personal feelings, and the use of emotions to better benefit your employer, along with your physical labor, to properly do one’s job.

Hochschild compares Marx’s question of the fairness of using someone as an instrument of labor and the cost of that usage in human terms. Hochschild takes this question a step further when she considers the cost involved when we look at how some industries expect one to use their emotional labor as part of their day to day production at work. She uses the analogy of a 19th century factory worker, a child, to compare with a 20th century flight attendant.  Her point is to the child, the outcome of a good day’s work is the amount of product produced, in this case, wallpaper. The outcome of a good day for the flight attendant would be a happy passenger. But as part of the input into that work, the flight attendant is expected to use their emotional capital as part of the process by which to please the passenger. Attendants are told to treat the passengers as someone they know; Hochschild calls this the “living room analogy” (p 105). The passengers are not people you know, but by training flight attendants in this nature, they are called upon to look at each person as their mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, and brother - someone they would have into their home, relax and have fun with. In this manner, their emotional tie in requires them to put aside their own personal feelings, especially when having to deal with negative, aggressive customers, and to just smile so as to convey a positive attitude at all times. This book is important in our lives because it looks at the price one pays for the ability to be employed. Especially in...
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