The Managed Heart

Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild

This month’s Great Read is a deservedly famous book by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, who developed the concept of emotional labor.

Emotional labor refers to the ways we manage, conceal, inflate, or studiously ignore our own emotions (and the emotions of others) in the context of the workplace. Emotional labor is a crucial part of many jobs, yet it’s rarely spelled out in any job description, and it can easily lead to a form of burnout that employees can’t completely identify. 

In The Managed Heart, Arlie Hochschild helps us understand emotional labor for two very different types of workers: flight attendants and bill collectors, and she focuses on the different emotional labor expected from men and women:

Just as we have seldom recognized or understood emotional labor, we have not appreciated its cost to those who do it for a living. Like a physical laborer who becomes estranged from what he or she makes, an emotional laborer, such as a flight attendant, can become estranged not only from her own expressions of feeling (her smile is not “her” smile), but also from what she actually feels (her managed friendliness). This estrangement, though a valuable defense against stress, is also an important occupational hazard, because it is through our feelings that we are connected with those around us.

This is an important book for any worker or manager, and especially for those of us who work in high-emotional labor occupations.

You can learn more or purchase The Managed Heart here.

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