Whether you're working your dream job or dreading the moment you step inside the office, work requires emotional labor. Coined by Organizational Sociologist Arlie Hochschild, 'emotional labor' is a form of emotion management individuals use to align their behaviors and interactions with employer expectations. Emotional labor enables you to visibly demonstrate your organization's culture, to "walk the talk" when you don't want to and aren't enrolled in what's occurring.
How much emotional labor are you putting in?
When you're in sync with the environment, being an example of the culture comes naturally. When there's alignment, your words and behavior easily tack with the company's bump and sway. You're authentic to yourself and to the organization. Your emotional labor is low and in the background.
While you're expending minimal emotional labor, capture what's working while it's working. When you're in this space, take stock of what's resonating with you and driving your connection to work. Is it the project? Your role? Recent recognition? The adrenalin rush of tight timelines and resource constraints? Invest the time to pinpoint the source of the synchronicity. Write a list, make an Evernote entry or send yourself a text outlining what's driving the connection. The easier the information is to retrieve, the better.
Take advantage of the momentum and try something new. Let your work connection embolden you to step out and step up to challenges. Leverage the synchronicity to plow new ground in building relationships, repairing a rift or initiating a difficult conversation. Whatever the challenge, state your intention and be deliberate in declaring the outcome you want. The opportunity to build new skills and strengthen management muscles is yours for the taking!
If 'surface acting' is masking the gorge between your felt and performed emotion, your emotional labor is high and on full tilt.
Notice the emotional labor you're putting in and pinpoint its origin. We're all called to bring a smile or bright light to bad situations and you have the professional chops to do it with aplomb. But what's really going on beyond the specifics of the situation? You're exerting emotional labor for a reason. Are you intrinsically off kilter (e.g. hungry, angry, lonely, tired) or is the emotional labor a harbinger of something else?
Use emotional labor as an alarm bell to jump start your self-evaluation and workplace scan.
Take the time to notice when you're surface acting and begin to decipher what's happening. You have the power to make adjustments and marshal resources to amp your game. You know what connection feels like and can refer to your list to tangibly remind you of what works.
You deserve to be in sync, aligned and connected at work. Be on the lookout for high emotional labor situations and use them to your advantage.
It'll work if you work it!