Emotion Labor Colloquim Presentation Fall 2006

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This presentation represents research conducted by Drs. Kurt Lindemann and Sarah J. Tracy on role conflicts in emotion labor.

This presentation represents research conducted by Drs. Kurt Lindemann and Sarah J. Tracy on role conflicts in emotion labor.

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  • This paper is based on one I originally wrote and presented at NCA in 2004. We in the process of submission to Communication Theory now. I first want to offer a brief overview of emotion labor, and relevant definitions of it and of related terms, including concepts drawn from performance studies.

Transcript

  • 1. “ Playing” With Emotion Labor: (Re)Theorizing Emotional Dissonance as Resistance Dr. Kurt Lindemann, San Diego State University Dr. Sarah J. Tracy, Arizona State University
  • 2. Emotion Labor
    • Definition (from Hochschild)
      • “ To induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others”
    • Why is this problematic?
      • Psychological damage
      • Lower productivity
      • Burnout
      • Higher rates of employee turnover
  • 3. Emotional dissonance and Authenticity
    • Emotional dissonance
      • Strain or tension arising when “display and feeling are separated” (Hochschild)
      • When “displayed emotions differ from actual emotions” (Ashforth & Tomuik)
    • Authenticity
      • The extent to which one is behaving in accordance with their genuine or “true” self
  • 4. Performance of Emotions
    • Twice-behaved behavior (Schechner)
      • Behavior is previously observed and mimetic based on “audience” expectations
      • Emotional displays are communicatively constructed and negotiated with an audience
    • Working definition of the performance of emotion
      • External behavior that, because of its mimetic nature, prompts the actor to consider his or her behaviors in light of audience expectations
  • 5. Performance of Emotions
    • Skillful, aesthetically pleasing displays that mark time and space in unique ways (Carlson)
    • Working definition (additions in italics)
      • External behavior skillfully and uniquely communicated in body and voice that, because of its mimetic nature, prompts the actor to self-reflexively consider, adjust, and revise his or her external behaviors in light of an audience’s expectations
  • 6. Dissonance as Liminality
    • Liminality—”Betwixt and between” social roles (Turner)
    • Organizational actors experiencing dissonance may similarly be in a liminal space
    • Play is improvisational and rule-bound, “keyed” as separate from ordinary activity while still part of “real” life
    • Playing may resist and reify corporate colonization of emotions
  • 7. Case study application
    • “Navigating the Limits of a Smile” (Tracy)
    • Cruise ship as total institution
    • Two situations from case study
  • 8. Case study application
    • Cassie, a female employee, must perform sexual availability while refusing advances of passenger
  • 9. Case study application
    • Blake, a male employee, must answer inane questions with a smile
  • 10. Case study application
    • Gender as status shield
    • Play may resist and reify traditional gender power
  • 11. Future Research: Propositions
    • Proposition 1: Emotional discomfort, when reframed as liminality, is a psychological space in which transformations in meanings of self and of current and future social interactions are possible.
    • Proposition 4: The skills needed and likelihood of successful play differs between men and women because men have a status shield that may make play (especially in the form of teasing and sarcasm) more acceptable.
    • Proposition 5: The discomfort associated with emotion labor is dependent upon one’s performance skills as displayed externally in body and voice. The better one’s performance skills, the easier organizational actors can navigate among liminal and multiple selves. As such, the better one’s performance skills, the less discomfort of emotion work.
  • 12. Future Research: Directions and Implications
    • Organizational communication and performance studies—heuristic intersections
      • Authenticity, subjectivity, and identity
      • Organizing performances of self
      • Embodiment of emotions
    • Utility of observations of emotions as well as self-reports
    • Play more accepted in certain occupations?