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Emotional Labor

In our society, we are expected to be open and friendly with everyone (at least on the surface). People who work serving the public must be especially warm and pleasant, whether or not they feel that way. Flight attendants, for example, are trained to smile no matter how rude passengers are (think of Pan Am, SWA). Clerks are supposed to tell us to have a nice day. And, servers in restaurants are often expected to introduce themselves and carry on cheery conversations. This kind of job requirement has been labeled “emotional labor,” since it requires that we manufacture emotions that we may not feel. Critics have noted that it can be exhausting work.

Answer the following set of discussion questions and submit

Have you ever worked in a job that called for “emotional labor” of this kind?

How did you feel about it? How were you treated by the public?

Was your friendliness reciprocated, ignored, or responded to rudely?

Describe some of the situations where you had to “put on a front.” Some people report that having to do this kind of emotional work makes them feel either guilty or phony. How can people keep from feeling burnt out by the interpersonal demands of their jobs?

Are men and women expected to show equal signs of warmth and friendliness or is there a sexual division of emotional labor?

How are emotional displays related to status (position in society, income level, etc.)?

Is the head of an organization expected to engage in as much emotional display as a clerical worker?

How personal should people be with those they work with?

Should a certain amount of reserve be maintained on the job, or is it always healthy to be as friendly and personal as possible?


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