Listening and reflection are vital for personal development and alignment of professional goals. The example that University of Wollongong’s High Achievers Recruitment Coordinator Bailey Bond put forward to the BCM313 congregation is excellent for framing multiple events that translate to most workplaces while also demonstrating some important yet relatable theory, emotional labour.
American Sociologist Arile Hochschild dubbed emotional labour as the need to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others”. Comparing this to a simple workplace scenario, a hospitality worker who does not like their job at all but needs it to make a living may display many strong signs of emotional labour. As a customer, you may never experience the genuine feelings that your waiter feels for the workplace as the big smile and friendly greeting masks the toxic relationship that the two actually share. This is a trend that you can find infecting many workplaces however, there are various different kinds of emotional labour and different reasons for specific reactions. When listening to Bailey Bond speak of his incredible experiences he endured in the workplace over the past year, it was evident that the continuous re-structuring and the constant feeling of impending uncertainty had taken its toll. As far as commitment to his job and passion for what he does, Bailey was unmatched. His love and belief for UOW as both a business and as a place for education was clear. So when we talk about emotional labour in this case, it was not caused by resentment for the company he worked for, but for the situation that Bailey continuously found himself in.
One word stood out towards the end of Baileys gripping talk. He described himself as “burnt” as the threat of more re-structuring and more lay-offs were impending at the university. In six months, Bailey had been through two situations that made him feel under-valued by the organisation that he loved and respects so much, but still talks about UOW so passionately and is serious about making the university as great as it can be. Regardless of what he was going through, Bailey always had his job and the people he worked with at the forefront of his mind and did not for second let it impact his professional values which is a rare and admiral trait to exhibit.
That is where I believe emotional labour evolves to fit each individual and professional values play a major part in how we manage it. I, as have most people of a working age, have experienced similar workplace issues or disruption that has led to our own personal use of emotional labour. I can remember a time where I was at a job in the service industry where it became abundantly clear in a matter of weeks that this workplace was toxic and the attitudes and work ethics of all staff were impacted. However, I was faced with a predicament as it had taken 3 months for me to land a job during this turbulent time in Australia’s job market and as a poor university student, I didn’t have much of a choice. So every time I put on that uniform, I also slide my emotional labour mask over my face and start my shift. Upon reflection, this had directly impacted my passion for my job and workplace, created distain for my superiors and has done nothing constructive for the already toxic environment I have surrounded myself with. I constantly feel burnt or under-appreciated however I continue to show up to work and put on a brave face as I feel I am trapped and have no other choice in the matter.
Reflecting on the experiences that Bailey Bond shared encouraged me to relate his situation to a similar one I went through. This subsequently allowed me to listen and understand Baileys stories in a more empathetic life and reflect on how a circumstance of emotional labour impacted not only my workplace, but my core professional values. Emotional labour is something that can impact all workers in all workplaces however efforts to truly understand what it is and relate to someone else who has experienced it ensures someone like me can begin to process what emotional labour is and how to best deal with it in a professional setting.