In his book, “The Managed Heart,” a sociologist known as Arlie Hochschild introduced the concept of commodification of a feeling. She started with the idea that the socially ingrained feeling laws and the principle of emotional labor was developed from there. Emotional work is called the work in which we create emotions which are appropriate for the work that is compensated for. It does not, however, express our individual approach. The meaning of emotional labor is exemplified by the 20th-century adage: “Leave your family and emotional problems at home.”
That is to say, an individual’s personal feelings should not be intertwined at the workplace, only allowing the job explicit sentiment emotions. On the other side of the issue, some jobs need employees to stimulate appropriate feelings, in consensus with social feeling rules, from clienteles. A common example is a telephone customer service agent comforting a customer who has been insulted or who has an issue with their account.
It is this emotional labor, which relies upon what Hochschild calls for a deep acting that develops into a commodity and in turn swapped for salaries. Thus emotional labor for an individual is the collective commodification of sentiments through a society. Hochschild evaluated the phenomenon from an individual point of view, which an employee performs emotional labor, and from the shared social perspective, which is a society relating the feeling rules (e.g., this event must produce this extent of joy or grief of this level of strength for this length of time) to service requiring deep acting for a wage therefore generating the commodification of sentiment.
Emotional labor is a tool at the workplace that employees display appropriate emotions toward customers or others. Examples of professions that require emotional labor are nurses, doctors, waiting staff, and television actors. However, as particular economies move from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, many more workers in a variety of occupational fields are expected to manage their emotions according to employer demands when compared to some years ago. Bearing in mind that we have shifted to a service-oriented economy, Dr. Hochschild warns of the consequences of commercialized human feeling that is made into a commodity, bought and sold the same as if it were a physical object.
Most of the service professionals are expected to match their required emotions with their work and in the process; they are supposed to reflect upon the emotional facade irrespective of their inner emotions at any given time. This is because when a person is at a workplace, he or she is a professional and their personality type should not be a deterrent in making sure that they fulfill their job responsibility with utmost precision.
Also, a commodification of the emotions stems from the fact that every job or a workplace requires a certain kind of standard decorum or behavioral variables that need to be balanced across the company so that people do not display their original personality types freely.
This is because each person has a certain overbearing mood that they show at the maximum duration of times. Below are the scenarios which can be shown to display the clear example of commodification of the feelings. The scenarios have been taken from the real-life instances pertaining to this topic.
A study done on the Delta flight attendants is a perfect example of a workforce expected to display smiles and a friendly attitude in the face of an increasingly hostile public. There are consequences to the relationship between the individual and his or her work, as well as the alienation of the worker from himself or herself. This is repeatedly done by the Airline companies as they have the increasing tendency to hold the attitude that human beings are resources to be used, which leads to dehumanization.
The hospitality business is one industry which expects its workforce to be cheerful at all times. They are expected to resolve the conflicts in the most amicable manner with utmost calmness. There is a formal training given to them so that they do not disclose their real emotions and remain in control at all times. When these employees display calm, happiness and obedience, they sell these emotions and gain business for their company. Their emotions might not be real but they are manufactured just like products.
Airlines industry professionals suffer from the dissonance between their personal and professional lives as they tend to forget the person they originally are and put up fake emotions whenever they are required to do so. They become so apt at doing it that they cannot differentiate between professional and personal lives thus facing the emotional degradation in the long run.
The second scenario which displays commodification of emotions pertains to the Entertainment industry. Stars from the music and movie industry are always surrounded by public eyes. This puts their lives under tremendous pressure to put up a face that always displays happiness and satisfaction. In most instances, professional actors undergo erratic work schedules which make them mentally and physically tired. In such scenario, these professionals find it difficult to act their normal self and react in the manner they want. This usually leads to them being branded as arrogant and rude.
In order to avoid this, they mostly sell fake emotions to please the public and the press so that they can maintain a clean and sober image in front of the world. This is like selling the clean image to the public in order to maintain the positive appearance to get leverage in professional assignments. Most of the movie’s stars avoid getting into a direct confrontation with the press representatives or public so that they do not face problems in getting movie assignments from the producers as no one would like to invest in a star who is a troublemaker.
Entertainment industry majorly depends on the public’s acceptance and appreciation of a particular person or creation. Hence it is imperative for the professionals in the industry to make sure that they maintain a positive image so that their projects and programs are accepted and the effect of the positive image is rubbed on the project’s acceptance also.
The commodification of feelings is a concept that runs across industries and professions but is very clearly seen in the service industry where it is the behavioral aspects of the service provider that matter much more than the service attributes or the products. The feelings or emotions become a product to be sold in return for the positive reviews, repeat business and increased revenue to a certain extent.
This is true in case of the hospitality business, airline business, entertainment industry, banking industry, health industry and other professions that require a lot of interactions much more than the direct product selling. We as individuals tend to forget that even if a person belongs to a certain industry, it is not necessary that he or she will be of a particular personality type that is required by the work environment there.
Most of the times, consumer buying decision is affected by the behavior of a person and this impacts the business potential of the company. Therefore, employers tend to make sure that they follow an acceptable code of conduct that is associated with that industry. This leads to the erosion of real emotions of the employee and emotional labor by the people which also results in long-term stress, induced by imposing fake emotions on the mind on a continual basis.
This shows how society has evolved to use emotions as a commodity to lure maximum business and professional benefits and thus underline that the purpose of any business is to treat customers as King even if it means selling the emotional package every time he spots a business opportunity.
Adelman, P. K. (1995). Emotional labor, as a potential source of job stress. In S. L. Sauter & L. R. Murphy (Eds.), Organizational risk factors for job stress (pp. 371 – 381). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Ashforth, B. E. & Humphrey, R. H. (1993). Emotional labor in service roles: The influence of identity. Academy of Management Review, 18(1), 88-115.
Diefendorff, J. M., & Richard, E. M. (2003). Antecedents and consequences of emotional display rule perceptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 284-294.
Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.