Emotional Labor and Exhaustion

Emotional Labor and Exhaustion

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3761-8.ch002


The focus of Chapter 2 is two-fold: emotional labor and emotional exhaustion. The chapter defines and describes each of these concepts in-depth and explores their many interrelationships. Drawing on the work of Grandey, the chapter provides definitions, examples, and related concepts for emotional labor (EL), which pertains to the regulation of one's own emotions within the particular context of the workplace, offering a conceptualization of the notion. This requires an understanding of both surface and deep acting, both of which are discussed. The chapter also explores the consequences of EL on both the individual and the organization. This leads into a discussion of emotional exhaustion (EE) which is likewise conceptualized within the chapter. There are six areas related to EE which the chapter explores: workload, fairness, reward, community, control, and value. It also examines the consequences of EE, briefly introducing its role in the phenomenon of burnout (which is examined more in-depth in another chapter).
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Emotional Labor

The word labor undoubtedly creates some very definite pictures in some people’s minds. A certain association is made regarding labor if one is a parent or knows others who have gone through the process of labor and delivery. Recalling that punishment in this country and others used to include being sentenced to hard labor likely also creates a certain association. The phrase manual labor likewise evokes clear images. In all of these associations it is likely that one begins to think of physical exertion – maybe sweat, maybe blood, maybe tears, maybe pain.

At its most basic, emotional labor (EL) is defined as the “process of regulating both feelings and expressions for the organizational goals” (Grandey, 2000, p. 97). EL may require that the individual suppresses, fakes, extends or enhances, or otherwise modifies their actual emotions and their expressions, usually in accordance with the expectations of their job or the organization for which they work (Grandey, 2000). EL as a concept was initially developed by Arlie Hochschild to distinguish the management of emotions in one’s private domain – that is, with family, at home, with friends, etc. – from the management of emotions in interactions “with customers as part of an economic exchange at work,” where an economic exchange may only refer to the wage for which the individual is working (Grandey, 2015, p. 54). In essence, the organization’s policies and strategies become the means by which the organization dictates the emotional behavior of its employees in the course of providing services and products (İrigüler & Güler, 2016, p. 114). Employees are “expected to empathize with customers” regardless of how the employees actually feel as part of the behaviors in which the employees engage in return for a wage (İrigüler & Güler, 2016, p. 114). Some researchers note that EL is frequently carried out by workers with lower status for the benefit of workers with higher status (Hoffmann, 2016).

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