In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Emotional Labor

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Work
  • Definition and Dimensions
  • General Overviews
  • Emotion at Work, Emotional Intelligence, and Emotional Labor
  • Emotional Labor Strategies
  • Antecedents of Emotional Labor
  • Outcomes of Emotional Labor
  • Moderating Effects
  • Leaders’ Emotional Labor
  • Emotional Labor in Different Cultures

Management Emotional Labor
Run Ren
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0081


Emotional labor could be regarded as a third type of labor, in addition to physical and mental labor. This third type of labor is predominant in our everyday life and work. The reason is that during face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions with customers, employees are required to express proper emotions as a job requirement. Thus, employees need to conduct emotional labor to deal with emotional work demands. Research on emotional labor has focused more on service employees, who frequently interact with customers and clients and need to create proper facial expressions with them. For instance, flight attendants or waiters need to greet every customer, even a rude customer, with warm-hearted smiles, even when they are not in a good mood. Much research on emotional labor has focused mainly on service employees and on the consequences such labor may have on the service employee’s physical and mental health. Such emotional labor is required not only for service employees; every employee needs to exhibit a facial expression that is appropriate for his or her role in a job. Consequently, recent research has expanded to consider emotional labor in a broader sense to include professionals’ interactions with clients and coworkers; for example, a judge should look serious in court, a nurse should show empathy to the patient, and an employee should be friendly to his peer.

Introductory Work

In the classic book The Managed Heart (Hochschild 1983), the author introduces the concept of emotional labor. This book was published when the American economy was transferring from a focus on the production of goods to the delivery of services. Hochschild used the term “feeling rules” to describe general norms of appropriate facial expression in a particular situation. She also separated “surface acting” from “deep acting,” with the former referring to publicly displaying only required feelings, and the latter involving changing privately felt emotions to be consistent with role requirements.

  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

    Introduces the concept of emotional labor. By describing the work of airline attendants and debt collectors, the book argues that emotions not only are shaped by cultural and societal norms, but also are regulated by rules from the employer. The book inspired an explosion of research on emotion work or emotion management.

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