Emotional Labour: A New Concept in the Workplace of Human Resource Management

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In the ever-evolving landscape of Human Resource Management (HRM), the concept of emotional labour has emerged as a significant aspect influencing employee well-being, job satisfaction, and organizational performance. Coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her seminal work “The Managed Heart,” emotional labour refers to the process of managing and regulating emotions as part of one’s job responsibilities. This article aims to delve into the nuances of emotional labour, its implications in the workplace, and strategies for effectively managing it.

Understanding Emotional Labour

Emotional labour encompasses the effort, skill, and regulation required to display specific emotions as dictated by organizational norms, job requirements, or social expectations. It involves the management of both positive and negative emotions to meet the demands of the job role and maintain desired interpersonal relationships with clients, colleagues, and customers.

Hochschild identified two main types of emotional labour:

1-Surface Acting:

This involves displaying emotions that are not genuinely felt, where employees outwardly express emotions that are incongruent with their true feelings. For instance, a customer service representative may be required to remain calm and composed while dealing with irate customers, even if they feel frustrated or upset.

2-Deep Acting:

 In contrast to surface acting, deep acting involves actively modifying one’s internal emotional state to align with the required emotions. This requires individuals to genuinely experience the expected emotions, making it a more authentic form of emotional labour. An example of deep acting is a nurse empathizing with a patient’s pain and providing emotional support during treatment.

Implications of Emotional Labour

The prevalence of emotional labour in the workplace has several implications for both employees and organizations:

1-Employee Well-being:

Constantly managing emotions in line with organizational expectations can lead to emotional exhaustion, burnout, and psychological distress among employees. This can negatively impact their overall well-being and job satisfaction.

2-Job Satisfaction:

The extent to which employees perceive their emotional labour as authentic and meaningful can influence their job satisfaction. When employees feel that their emotions are valued and aligned with organizational values, they are more likely to experience job satisfaction and engagement.

3-Customer Satisfaction:

Emotional labour plays a crucial role in shaping customer experiences and satisfaction. Employees who effectively manage their emotions can provide better service, build rapport with customers, and handle challenging situations more adeptly, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

4-Organizational Performance:

 Emotional labour contributes to the overall organizational performance by influencing employee productivity, retention, and the quality of interpersonal relationships within the workplace. Effective management of emotional labour can lead to a positive work environment, improved teamwork, and enhanced organizational outcomes.

Examples of Emotional Labour in Different Industries

Hospitality Industry:

Frontline employees in the hospitality industry, such as hotel staff, restaurant servers, and flight attendants, often engage in emotional labour to create positive customer experiences. They must greet guests with a warm smile, remain patient and attentive to their needs, and handle complaints or issues professionally, regardless of their personal feelings.

Healthcare Sector:

Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and caregivers, frequently engage in emotional labour while interacting with patients and their families. They must display empathy, compassion, and reassurance, even in challenging situations such as delivering bad news or providing end-of-life care.

Retail Sector:

Retail workers are required to manage their emotions effectively while dealing with diverse customer interactions. They may need to remain courteous and composed while addressing customer inquiries, resolving conflicts, or handling demanding customers during peak hours.

Call Centers:

Customer service representatives in call centers engage in emotional labour during every interaction with customers over the phone. They must convey empathy, understanding, and professionalism while addressing customer concerns, resolving issues, and promoting products or services.

Strategies for Managing Emotional Labour

Training and Development:

Organizations can provide training programs to equip employees with the necessary skills for managing emotional labour effectively. This includes techniques for recognizing, regulating, and expressing emotions in a professional manner.

Supportive Work Environment:

Fostering a supportive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and appreciated can mitigate the negative effects of emotional labour. Encouraging open communication, providing opportunities for feedback, and promoting work-life balance are essential aspects of creating a supportive workplace culture.

Emotional Intelligence:

Promoting emotional intelligence among employees can enhance their ability to understand and manage their emotions, as well as empathize with others. Hiring individuals with high emotional intelligence and providing ongoing development opportunities can contribute to better emotional labour management.

Flexible Work Policies:

Implementing flexible work policies, such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting options, can help employees manage their emotional well-being by providing them with greater control over their work-life balance.

Recognition and Rewards:

Recognizing and rewarding employees for their efforts in managing emotional labour can boost morale and motivation. Acknowledging their contributions to customer satisfaction, team dynamics, and organizational success reinforces the importance of emotional labour in achieving business objectives.


In conclusion, emotional labour is a complex yet integral aspect of the modern workplace, significantly impacting employee well-being, job satisfaction, and organizational performance. Recognizing the prevalence of emotional labour and implementing strategies to manage it effectively is crucial for creating a positive work environment where employees can thrive. By understanding the implications of emotional labour and adopting proactive measures to support employees, organizations can foster a culture that values emotional well-being and cultivates a motivated and engaged workforce.

Through examples across various industries and actionable strategies for managing emotional labour, organizations can navigate the challenges associated with emotional labour while harnessing its potential to drive employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and organizational success in the dynamic landscape of Human Resource Management.

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