Exploring the Theory and Practice of Emotional Labour in Workplaces and Management

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The key success to any business transaction is customer satisfaction. A customer always demands the best service and in return offers the company their loyalty. The key to this; great customer service. Smile at the customer, speak to them with a polite tone, and adjust your body language to make it friendly and approachable; all these are related to the concept of emotional labour. Emotional labour proposes that in order to ensure customer satisfaction is achieved, it is vital for “managers or employers to regulate or manage employee’s behaviour or emotional expressions to ensure service quality” (Chu 2002). The concept of emotional labour was first developed by Arlie Hochschild, who was an organizational sociologist. Hochschild stated that if an employee was employed in a service field, then it would be required from the employee to “to display specific sets of emotions (both verbal and non-verbal) with the aim of inducing particular feelings and responses among those for whom the service is being provided”(Hochschild 1983).

The concept of emotional labour has often been referred to as being the performance of emotionally acting. Emotional acting can be split into two different categories; surface acting and deep acting. Surface acting is described as being the act of expressing an emotion without actually feeling that emotion (Hochschild 1983), which includes actions that are used to cover any negative emotions with positive actions. An example of this would be a bank teller who smiles continuously at a customer even though the customer has been very rude. Deep acting is another form of emotional labour which can be further split into two different types of emotional actions; the first is to exhibit the actual emotion that yo...

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...roblem that exist in the theory of emotional labour is the emotional dissonance that exists for the employee and the impact this has on them and on their job satisfaction. Emotional dissonance is defined as being the “the feeling of unease that occurs when someone evaluates an emotional experience as a threat to his or her identity” (Janz & Timmers 2002). The constant manipulation of emotion undertaken by employees is required due to the fact that their jobs require them to always be polite and courteous to the customers, regardless to how the consumer might be treating the employee. This dissonance is said to cause negative effects on the employees; namely excessive stress related ailments. Mann, from the University of Salford, has suggested that constantly having to manage your emotions in such a way could lead to work stress (Mann, 2004).

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