A video popped up on my Facebook about a Walmart employee who was being disciplined by his store manager for using his phone on the floor AND being disrespectful to the manager by not responding when he was talked to. While the manager, in my opinion, lacked some people skills in the way he handled the situation, it was pretty clear the employee was argumentative and deserved the disciplinary action he was soon getting. (He’s probably also since been fired for secretly recording the manager and posting on his Facebook, a clear violation of company policy…)
But what really caught my interest was while most of the commenters also felt that the employee was in the wrong, some were defending him by saying he was being asked to do “emotional labor” by responding to his manager on the sales floor. Never having heard this term, I looked it up on Wikipedia and this is what it said:
Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors. This includes analysis and decision making in terms of the expression of emotion, whether actually felt or not, as well as its opposite: the suppression of emotions that are felt but not expressed.
Roles that have been identified as requiring emotional labor include but are not limited to those involved in public administration, flight attendant, daycare worker, nursing home worker, nurse, doctor, store clerk, call center worker, teacher, librarian, social worker; most roles in a hotel, motel, tavern, bar, pub, and restaurant; and jobs in the media, such as television and radio. As particular economies move from a manufacturing– to a service-based economy, more workers in a variety of occupational fields are expected to manage their emotions according to employer demands when compared to sixty years ago.
So in a nutshell, it is apparently now considered “emotional labor” for an employee to be nice to customers, respond to their superiors, and not lose their temper when confronted by a challenging customer. Excuse me, but are you freaking kidding me? Isn’t that just part of working in retail? Did we have to define it as “emotional labor?”
I wonder how long before employees band together and form an “emotional labor union” and demand higher pay for having to actually smile when they work? How about time and a half if they have to deal with an angry customer and not being able to tell them off?
Attention to anyone thinking of working in retail–you will have to smile, be nice to other human beings, and not get upset over things that don’t really affect you. If that’s a problem for you, you might want to find another career where you don’t have to “emotional labor.” That is all.