Academy of Management Review

The experience of emotional labour as a comical relief can provide a large amount of stress, but the context of the interaction supplies great satisfaction. A woman called an emergency call centre who complained of being harassed, but it was during the 3 minute interaction decided that she did not want to file a complaint. Schuler and Sypher’s (2000) presents another instance when a caller is asking about ‘the legality of oral sex in the state’. Both these stories then provided the story of the day to repeat. It also acted as an alleviator of pain suffered during the day.

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The experience of emotional labour as an adrenaline fix is highly dependent upon the frame of mind of the person; I personally got quite a fix from having to handle, especially successfully, a large number of customers at peak time at the jewellery store. The experience of emotional labour as an altruistic service would tend to be related to people who are socially orientated and have a tendency to help people. For some this feeling may come and go. Only qualified FLSW are allowed to give potential treatment advice over the telephone. People who are not qualified: ‘I would rather help save that man’s life, than save my job. This illustrates not only emotional labour as an altruistic service but also as emotional deviance.

Negative and positive impacts come about from emotional labour and both have been clearly demonstrated. What really makes a difference on the intensity of each is a set of contingent factors that would either enhance or lessen the impact. The approach used by the management in terms of its HRM policy. If the recruitment and selection task was conducted such that the emotional dissonance that arises was minimised. In Abu Dhabi, which has a high number of conservative Muslims, with particular views on life, if one who could not conform with such views would not be able to interact effectively, and thus be damaging not only to the organisation’s benefit but the potential benefit to the employee.

The way the PRP system is implemented can also make a difference. In some cases the increased pay could potentially tip the balance on an individual to endure a certain degree of pains from the emotional labour. In another case, it could also work as a double edged sword. Communities of coping are central to coping, but if the PRP system encourages for competition within the company then this community would not develop. Though it would increase the effort put in by the FLSW.

Breaks receivable to call centre operators are part of the soft HRM policy of the organisation to help cope with the demands of emotional labour. Many companies do not allow collective emotional labour (Hochschild) to take place. This can be extremely damaging. Prevented from sharing the sorrow with fellow dispatchers, they are ‘forced to suck it and suppress all of her feelings of sorrow all the time’ the dispatcher asked Schuler and Sypher where it left her as a human? Other coping mechanisms that they could allow, helping to alleviate the negative impacts are rest rooms (Fineman, Sturdy cited in Korczynski 2002) which give the FLSW the opportunity to drop their fake orientations and return back to normal…

The autonomy, in terms of coping with emotional labour and performing labour that they are given by the management does effect the impact of emotional labour. This was partly discussed earlier in terms of allowing FLSW to cope the way they please. An additional point can be the way they design the job. Are they required to perform in certain ways, or do they have the freedom? Emotional labour can bring about negative impacts no matter how well the individual identifies with the role played by the employees. Operators who have been working in call centres for a long time still find the type of service work to be harmful. The more the frequency of service interactions, the more they relish the break they receive, when acceptable to management.

FLSW can type the customer and this would help negate factors that could cause problems. Customers who come just for window shopping sometimes get in the way of good customers and the retail outlet may miss a sale. Typologies can help prevent such realities. The performance of emotional labour in the economy is on the rise and so too would the impacts that emanate from it. Positive impacts include fun, excitement and reward when performing emotional labour as a comic relief, as a fix, and as an altruistic service.

Negative impacts include stress, detachment, depersonalisation and self estrangement due to the alienation from the self’s emotions resulting in exhaustion and dissonance. The factors that would influence these factors would include the organisation’s approach to the management of service work and the type of HRM policy implemented, the type of service work performed, and the worker’s coping and resistance methods.


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Hochschild, A. (1983) The Managed Heart: Commercialisation of Human Feeling (Berkeley; University of California Press)

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