Always presenting a positive face is part of some jobs.
"Miss, can you bring me a glass of water?"...
"Oh miss, I need some ketchup for my eggs."...
"Oh dear... Miss, my eggs are too runny. I can't possibly eat these. You'll need to send them back, and make sure my order is right this time."...
"Well, now there's a mark on my water glass. Get me a new one!"...
"You expect me to pay full price for this meal? I was served runny eggs and had to go out of my way to ask for water, which was then brought in a dirty glass. I can't believe it. There will certainly be no tip for you, young lady!"
How would you feel if you were the waitress (or waiter) dealing with this customer? Frustrated? Angry? Humiliated? Comments like this from a customer are likely to provoke a negative emotional reaction. However, as a hardworking professional, you would have to hide your personal feelings, and remain calm and positive throughout the exchange.
Does your job require you to manage your emotions, or the way you express those emotions, to meet organizational expectations? This is called 'emotional labor.' People in a service-oriented role – hotel workers, airline flight attendants, tour operators, coaches, counselors – often face the demands of emotional labor.
Arlie Hochschild created the term 'emotional labor' in 1983 to describe the things that service workers do that goes beyond physical or mental duties. Showing a genuine concern for customers' needs, smiling, and making positive eye contact are all critical to a customer's perception of service quality. These types of activities, when they're essential to worker performance, are emotional labor.
When you face angry clients, or people who are generally unpleasant, emotional labor can be particularly challenging. 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.
Companies often place a great deal of strategic importance on service orientation, not only to external customers but to colleagues and internal clients as well. While emotional labor is applicable to many areas of business, the consequences are probably greatest in traditional service roles. However, in an increasingly service-oriented marketplace, it's important to understand how emotional labor affects workers, and what organizations can do to support and manage any issues.
When you engage in emotional labor, you control your feelings to fulfill the goals and expectations of your organization. From a practical standpoint, this means that you either (a) express only your positive feelings, or (b) hide or manage your negative feelings. To deal with negative emotions, people tend to do one of the following:
"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
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