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Emotional Labor

  • By: Susan L. Wortmann & Jie Gao
  • In: Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
  • Edited by: Dale Southerton
  • Subject:Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture

In a consumer culture, people consume not only products but also services provided by individuals and companies. Just as these consumers want particular goods to meet their needs and desires, they also expect these services to be provided in a way that makes them feel good about consuming or, at least, does not interfere with their consumption. Companies rely on their employees' abilities to provide services with a smile, regardless of their own feelings. When workers suppress or produce emotions to do their job, this process is called emotional labor.

Put another way, consumers (and employers) expect employees to fulfill certain social roles that carry with them emotional obligations. This is a required but unpaid part of their work. For example, a news anchor must remain ...

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