- Have you had to humour someone at a public/ private setting because they’ve asked if you have a partner even though this had NOTHING to do with them and you probably weren’t even in the mood to interact with them?
- Are you constantly reminding your partner to buy gifts for loved ones or better yet buy the gift on behalf of your partner?
- Are you constantly the cheerleader and or advisor?
- Do you go above your job scope at work, making coffees, preparing for farewell parties or birthdays etc?
- Do you feel the need to smile at someone even though they are invading your space and basically harassing you?
If you’ve answered yes to some of these actions then you are aware that your energy was used and these situations might have left you drained.
You’ve acted as a ‘social lubricant’ making sure others felt at ease even if you weren’t. Going to your automated response of acting like it’s all fine.
You might be asking what all these questions have in common well …it seems that we may have been doing work and not getting paid for it.
Let me introduce you to the semi new ‘buzzword’ emotional labour;
Emotional labour is emotionally charged care work which is disproportionately performed by women unpaid.
(Defined by Leah Cowan).
Now you might be thinking what makes it emotional labour and not me simply reminding a friend to pick up a gift for someone mutual to us, or reminding my partner to book spots for us at our favourite restaurant?
Well it was explained better in an interview I watched. What we view as normal reminders / tasks can be seen as mental labour but the minute that mental labour triggers an emotion with it eg: annoyance, irritability or slight anger then it’s bordered into your emotions and has caused a load on you.
These situations can take place in the office, amongst your friends, family or with strangers.
You are constantly overwhelmed. Kinda feeling like a doctor who is always on call. E.L is said to affect women more so then men which leads can lead to their personal life spilling into their work life.
Ever had an instance of being at work and being anxious you might get a call from home because you left things in someone else’s hands but don’t fully trust that they can hold the fort? Or vice versa.
Well E.L was originally defined as:
Myraid unpaid jobs and responsibilities that mostly women take on in families , office and communities.
This term was coined just over thirty years ago by Arile Hochschild she however used it to describe the component of service industry jobs in which workers must project a different emotion than the one they are experiencing.
Example: Flight attendants maintaining an air of friendly calm amongst possible anxious or hostile passengers.
They have gone above the actual scope of their job in order to make sure you feel comfortable and are always calm. They are not just servicing your needs of putting your bag away for you or getting you a specific drink they are crossing into their emotional capacity in order to make you a happy satisfied customer. As with time, language and words evolve and now E.L has made it’s way into our homes.
I however prefer Gemma Hartley’s alternative name for it: Care-based invisible labour. Dr.Karyn Gordon explains this term better in my eyes ;
Managing someone else’s emotions or trying to manage yourself, it’s extra work that was never part of the original scope.
I’msitting on the fence with E.L simply because there are instances where you feel like you’ve exerted yourself with simple tasks which have somehow overwhelmed you and left you exhausted but what really and truly makes it emotional labour, can we not practice more agency and say no? Do we have it in is to remove ourselves more from things and do what’s in our best interest?
Dr.Gordon however offered 2 tips on how to get out of it:
- Be aware that you are now in this state of mind.
- YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW OTHER PEOPLE FEEL.
What are your thoughts on emotional labour / Care-based invisible labour? is it really a thing?
If so how do we get out of it?
I encourage you to do your own research, so I’ve attached a few links for your viewing:
- Poem by Janae Johnson
- Leah Cowan : Tedx talk
- Ashley Elisa on emotional labour
- Detecting emotional labour
- Gemma Hartley , E.L in the work place