Emotional labor, what it isn’t

No Fake Smiles Matt Borghi

What is it that separates the artist, whether it’s a painter, a plumber or a sandwich maker from the non-artist in any field? The answer is that the artist is an emotional laborer. It’s up to the emotional laborer to do the work that comes from your heart and your gut, not your muscles and not even intellect alone.

As I’ve read and tried to learn more about the origin of the concept of emotional labor, I’ve been troubled by some of the things that I’ve read. This article here makes most of the arguments against emotional labor, but it seems that definition of emotional labor here is something where an organization “forces”  a certain kind of positive or negative facade depending on whatever the outcome is that an organization is looking for… And… I’ve found many articles that have said that this can lead to strain, stress and the detriment of an employee’s health… no kidding!? Really!!!?

When I talk about emotional labor, I’m not talking about some disingenuous bullshit facade where you parrot back positive statements or mirror some kind of phoniness…. man, that’s about as far in the other direction of what I’m talking about as things can get.

Emotional labor, for me, means feeling the fire in your gut, that visceral feeling to just do really good work, to bring your vision forth, to make something, do something, be something that the world has not witness in *your* way before.

After doing some of this reading, I felt that I really needed to clarify how I define emotional labor and most of you probably got my perspective, anyway.

3 thoughts on “Emotional labor, what it isn’t

  1. This reminds me of an impromptu question I posed to a Circle of front line health care workers called Customer Sales Representatives (i.e. front desk people): Is the Greeter at Wal-Mart REALLY happy to see you?

  2. Exactly, Tracy! Of course, they’re not happy to see you, there poor, broken-down, should be retired, but don’t have a retirement, selves… their body language says it all and in the case of the dozen or so visits I’ve made to Wal-Marts across the US over the years, the misery and discontent has been uniform… The Wal-Mart greeter is the embodiment of just that kind of disingenuous phoniness that only steals your soul, but certainly it’s not the kind of emotional labor I’m talking about. That emotional labor, if I dare call it that, is trying to maintain your soul while maintaining miserable employment…

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