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Jobs Involving Emotional Labor

Anuja Marathe Kanhere
Ever wondered how an airline attendant can keep smiling all the time? Or how a nurse in the hospital passes on reassuring positive vibes to her patients? Well, they are just performing emotional labor. Read this story for more information on emotional labor.
Emotional labor is an art of creating situational facial expressions or mood modifications as part of perfectly performing one's job duties. Usually, emotional labor has some noticeable effects on targeted people such as clients, colleagues and superiors, etc. The term 'emotional labor' was first coined by a sociologist by name Arlie Hochschild.
She defined this term as 'The management of feeling to create a publicly facial and bodily display.' Emotional labor is the art of managing expressions so as they coincide with organizational or occupational expectations. These occupations usually involve masking of personal feeling and moods.

Forms of Emotional Labor

There are two forms of emotional labor. They are:

Deep Acting

This refers to modification of personal thoughts so as to get right expressions on the face or in the voice. This requires an antecedent-focused emotion regulation.

Surface Acting

This refers to masking or faking of expressions without actually changing internal thoughts and moods. It is like creating an artificial persona. This requires response-focused emotion regulation.

Professions Stressing on Emotional Labor

Here are some broadly categorized professions that highly stress on emotional labor.

Entertainment Industry

Audiences opt for entertainment industry as a way of getting positive feeling and entertainment in their lives. It is a temporary escape from their own problems to experience some fun or to get a view of other people's lives. This industry is successful only because its artists are able to create a different image of themselves.
Actors: For a long time, people have been fascinated by the lives and acting skills of actors. But the fact is that, actors have to put in a lot of emotional labor to create the right image and impact on the minds of their audience. e.g.
An actor performing a romantic scene or an emotional scene should be able to get the right expressions on his face and right tone to his voice. They have to get under the character's skin to feel the mood and change accordingly.
A noteworthy personality who used emotional labor all his life is actor Charlie Chaplin. He had a lot of personal sorrow but he had the talent to bring the right emotions on his face when he was acting. His movies are voted as classics to this day.
Singers: As far as singers are concerned, they have to modulate their voice and change their moods to give a 'feel' to their songs. e.g. A singer singing a really happy song has to be in the right mood to give the best performance. If the singer is very sad, then it is difficult to bring a happy tone in his voice.
Some other jobs that require emotional labor are radio jockeys, program compere, circus/ carnival artists, etc.

Hospitality Industry

Close on heals of entertainment industry, is the hospitality industry. It can be easily said that this industry actually runs on the quality of emotional labor displayed.
Apart from the creation of good ambiance and provision of good facilities, experts stress on the warm and pleasant service by hospitality staff as the most essential factor to gain customer loyalty.
Airlines Crew: Considered to be one of the most challenging and stylish careers, airline staff such as airline crew and ground staff have to display a warm and cheerful exterior to make traveling a pleasant experience for their customers.
Even under times of crisis like bad weather conditions or airline technical issues, the staff has to be emotionally intelligent maintain a calm and pleasant expression. maintain a calm and pleasant expression.
Hotel & Restaurant Staff: Some of best hotels and restaurants have been popular and continue to be popular due to their staffs' 24x7 efforts to excel in emotional labor. There are some specific rules laid down for success of this industry and these rules have to be adhered to by all the staff. Experts say that a customer can be made happy by exuberating joy when serving him.

Health Care Industry

People visit medical facilities not only to get a proper medical treatment, but to get an overall hope for successful recovery from their health problems.
Doctors & Nurses: Doctors and nurses have often been quoted as manifestation of gods by many cultures. They are expected to create positive vibes and nurture hopes of recovery and survival in the hearts of their patients. A calm and positive behavior by medical team often boosts a patient's willpower to fight against diseases.
Psychiatrists & Counselors: Most of the patients visiting psychiatrists and counselors have some or the other psychological issue which they feel difficult to surpass. This profession often demands that psychiatrist and counselors keep aside their personal problems and reflect a cool and calm exterior to help the patients with mental rehabilitation.
They need to be encouraging and most importantly good listeners. They need to maintain a soothing tone and create a facial expression that helps patients open up to them about their problems.

Customer Service Industry

Jobs under customer service can either be direct or indirect in nature. Some direct customer services are provided by banks, insurance companies, etc., while indirect customer services are popularly provided by BPOs.
People employed in direct customer services are often expected to modulate their voice and carry a pleasant facial expression to achieve customer service excellence. One can create customer loyalty by being sympathetic to customer's problems, by being a good listener and by reflecting knowledge and confidence in voice and facial expressions.
Similarly, in the field of indirect customer services, the service providers cannot be directly seen but they can win customer's attention by excelling in techniques of voice modulation. Often employees are expected to gain product knowledge and learn the customer's regional language and accent.
This makes the customer feel as if he is talking to a knowledgeable person from his own region or community.
Though usage of emotional labor is essential for success of any business or profession, it has some deep impact on the people who actually apply it. Modulating expressions and changing moods can take an emotional toll on these people.
Many have reported that jobs with emotional labor are highly stressful and have a high possibility of professional burnout. In the run to provide the best service, one's own psychological needs and moods get affected.
Although many people thrive on the positive aura created by their jobs, some turn to options such as meditation, substance abuse, alcohol addictions, etc., as a means to calm their nerves.
There are several others who experience bouts of depression since they are unable to express their true thoughts during their jobs. It is indeed, a tough task to perform emotional labor.