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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
09 October 2013

Emotional labour is the practice of workers displaying particular emotions in the course of their duties, regardless of their true feelings. Flight attendants, sales staff and teachers are just some of the professionals required to present their emotions in a certain way while they work.

The phenomenon of emotional labour is increasingly scrutinised because the service sector plays such an important role in the economy. In the service sector, a significant aspect of the product is the treatment customers receive in the form of inter-personal contact.

Friendliness, being polite and other displays of positive emotion are often taken for granted and interpreted with little (if any) thought for the circumstances of the person providing the service. We expect to receive friendly, respectful and professional service no matter what the circumstances of the service provider.

Of course, the need to display particular emotions involves a concentrated effort, and emotional labour has therefore been associated with some negative outcomes. Emotional exhaustion is just one (and perhaps the most serious) impact, as a person’s psychological resources are reduced to none and they are unable to continue.

Reduced job satisfaction, an increased desire to quit, less commitment to the employer and a lower level of effort and performance are some of the most commonly seen complications of emotional exhaustion.


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