You go to a coffee shop. The barista greets you with a wide smile and it makes your day. But little did you know deep inside, she’s fighting her own battles: She’s two weeks behind the payment date for rent.
Store clerks, nurses, cabin crews, waiters, and other workers are expected to carry out their tasks with all the required pleasantries and politeness. They constantly need to mask their feelings to live up to the demands of their daily tasks. This is called emotional labor.
It’s the process of manipulating one’s expressions to satisfy the requirements of a job. Alongside regulating one’s feelings during interaction with coworkers and superiors, emotional labor is most specifically applied when dealing with clients.
Although most employees are required to “keep it together” as a professional requirement, this is core to service-based economy.
Roles in the public health, public administration, retail, customer service, social services, hotel administration, food, entertainment and media industries mostly undergo emotional labor.
When you are ‘payed to be friendly’
Service-based workers go beyond physical and mental duties, as presenting an authentic concern for customers is key to customer’s perception of quality service. The dark side of it, and the most challenging part, is handling rude and angry clients.
Customers even have the awareness that being polite, friendly and accommodating is part of the job of service employees. While this is a recognized fact, many customers don’t reciprocate with equally cheery reply—or even just return the favor of politeness.
They may be paid to appear happy, but the effect is the opposite to many workers. Some may experience a conflict between experienced emotions and emotions expressed when conforming to rules.
This is called emotional dissonance. According to University of South Florida sociology professor Melissa Sloan, “The constant management of emotion can lead to emotional exhaustion and worker burnout.”
Studies suggest that hiding one’s emotions constantly leads to heightened stress levels and even a disconnection from close personal relationships.
On another note, some workers tend to recognize with the company’s values of positive emotional communication, which helps them to shut down negative emotions more easily.
According to a study from the Ateneo de Manila Faculty of Psychology published in Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Filipino service workers engage in more deep acting, which is an actual experience of emotions required.
“Filipinos are known for their empathy,” the report said. “It can be said that emotional labor comes naturally to them. Our ability to empathize allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers.
“It is thus not surprising that we are known for our ability to provide great service. This may also explain why our service and contact center industries continue to grow in an otherwise dismal economy.”
Although Filipino service workers are adapting steadily to the effects of emotional labor, it is our duty as customers to reciprocate politeness. Remember The Waiter Rule: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”