By Ryan W. Quinn
I walked into a restaurant a few weeks ago and was impressed with the person behind the counter. He was a fiftyish man named Jim, and he was smiling and laughing and appeared genuinely happy to be there.
He called people by nicknames, made them laugh, and engaged them about their orders. Everyone who ordered walked away from the counter smiling. If I lived in that community and wanted to get a bite to eat, I would be more likely to choose that restaurant just because that man was working there.
Since that day, I have had a number of conversations with colleagues about a concept known as emotional labor. Simply explained, the key idea behind emotional labor is that when people’s work settings require them to display emotions they do not feel, it has a negative impact on their physical and psychological health and can sometimes negatively affect social relationships later on. These are real costs, and they should be taken seriously.
Was the jovial restaurant worker just going through the motions because his work required it? Or was his good cheer authentic? I think it was real. And just as there are costs to emotional labor, there are benefits to feeling and displaying positive emotions on the job. (more…)