Few days back I happened to come across news from CNN highlighting how hospital staff coped up with emotions while they see a dying patient. It highlighted how a canine which was helping the doctors and nurses throughout the 1-year period moved on without much difficulty. It made me think about the significance of emotional labour we all notice in one way or other in our work life.  It is not uncommon that while talking to customer service representative one often vents his anger on the company towards the customer service representative. They end up taking the brunt of anger of the customers. Despite that they talk with a sense of politeness and do not return anger towards the person calling them. At time, the lines are on recorded for the purposes of quality or training purposes which further complicates their responses towards the people who were calling them. Taking Hoschile’s definition, Emotional labour can be defined as management of feeling to publicly observable facial and bodily display.

man photo face portrait
Photo by Saeeed Karimi on Pexels.com

To conclude customer service environment is high pressure scenarios which demand upmost communication quality. This type of job qualifies a typical emotional job where call centre employees need to alter the emotions of the people who are calling them, at times controlling their emotions where lines are monitored and finally, they continually in touch with customers via a face to face or via phone lines. Like the Hawthorne light studies where changing the light impacted the employee behaviour as they believed they were being monitored which increased their performance, the performance monitoring of the employees of call centre by means of line records, satisfaction surveys and feedback reduced emotional dissonance.

Like the example given above for the call centre, we notice there are multiple roles employees face on a day to basis where emotional labour comes into play. For example, some of organizational activities and post pandemic scenarios needed employees to manage their emotions well and manage the emotions of their customers or stakeholders. All were going through a scenario of challenging emotional times. The most effective employees are those who happen the work with their personality to manage such scenarios. There are varying research papers which highlight such dependency between personality of the employee and the way they happen to manage their emotional labour. Some of the traits which were quoted to help in meeting the requirement include, motivation and high interpersonal skills. As studied in our management sessions, emotions are social constructions, which vary based on the lifetime of the person the stage of this life for example the famous theories of Sigmund Freud.

Another type of employees who needed to manage their emotions are the ones who are in the teaching profession. Especially during the current pandemic, it has lot of strain on teachers mental and emotional well being and needed to make proper emotional expressions. You must have noticed how teachers manage undesired emotions during classes while student emotional behaviour changes.

Taking the above examples of employee types, lets try to understand the personality traits which dictate the emotional labour of the employees. The individual personality traits like Personality, Gender and race are found to contribute to the emotions. Examples like Positive expressivity, emotional intelligence is found to positively related with the emotional balance of the employees. Those who have exhibited high levels of emotional intelligence are found to exhibit high levels of efficacy, which highlights the importance of employee competence into picture. Similar studies though during non-pandemic times quote how well the female workforce managed the emotions compared to their male colleagues. One of the reasons for such differences is the motivational differences between males and female. With male acting to take control over others, whereas female look for positive interpersonal relationships. There are also referenced which quote to nature of the employee country of origin and the intensity with which they managed the emotions.

Similar to the personality characteristics which dictate emotional labour, organizational practices also shape employee emotional labour. Typical HR activities like recruitment, selection, training, performance management and compensation also found to influence the emotional labour. For example, the case highlighted at the beginning of the blog, the hospital nurses job dictates the emotional labour, similarly there are also scenarios which highlight Sheriff or police exhibit similar emotions.

The next organizational factor which influences the emotions is the job selection that is important of selecting employees to meet the emotional requirements. Organizational more and more look into these traits of how an employee reacts during the interaction, customer interaction. There are many emotional labour strategies suggested for example, surface acting, deep acting, expression of naturally felt emotions. Some of the organizational climate which influences emotional labour include, harmony between members of the organization, integration between members, relationship between departments. Organizational will be successful if their employees know how to manage physical and emotional characteristics. Some of the personality characteristics like extroversion, self-discipline, openness contributes to various emotional labour behaviour like deep role playing, natural emotions in an individual.

To conclude, the topics covered during our weekend Organizational behaviour made me think on this broad topic which was in my thoughts for many days. As we understand factors affecting individual behaviour like personal, emotional, and organizational and how various biographic factors also influences the behaviour. Some of the biographical factors like age, gender, experience, intelligence values, and ability influences one’s emotional labour. I have seen how people manage their emotions on a day-to-day basis. There are many ways persons manage their emotions and behave to suit to the occasion. Someday I would like to write a book on Emotional Labour which I encounter as an IT consulting professional – which is critical to the success of the person and to the organization where he is working.

Thanks

Jayakumar

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