35: The Managed Heart – Arlie Hochschild

Arlie Russell Hochschild

In this episode, the podcasters tackle a seminal work on the uses of emotion as part and parcel of one’s job, and the social and psychological implications this has on one’s role as a producer of products or provider of services. The Managed Heart,originally published in 1983 by Dr. Arlie Hochschild, introduced the concept of emotional labour as a counterpart to the physical and mental labour performed in the scope of one’s duties. The importance of emotional labour is made clear in Dr. Hochschild’s descrption of flight attendants, who regardless of the dispositions of airline passengers, turbulence in the flight, or personal stress is required to act and behave in ways that minimize passenger anxiety and encourage them to fly with that airline again.

This phenomenon extends to a wide range of professions and vocations. In the preface to the 2012 edition, Dr. Hochschild writes, “forms of emotional labor require that a person manage a wide range of feeling. The poor salesclerk working in an elite clothing boutique manages envy. The Wall Street stocktrader manages panic. The judge, as legal researcher Terry Maroney shows, is exposed to highly disturbing evidence of atrocities such as maiming, murder, dismemberment, and child rape.” Later in the preface, she shows how changing the expectations of emotional management in an organization or industry leads to changes in the relationships between providers and clients, such as how the field of medicine moved from community-based, non-profit clinics and hospitals to an emerging system where care became more akin to business transactions and the emotional support once provided by professionals were shifted to lower-paid workers.

The book ran a gamut of implications of alignment and misalignment between persons and the emotional labour they perform in their work lives. Dr. Hochschild explores the challenges of stress, protecting one’s personal identity and private life, differentiated (and often unfair) gender roles, miscommunication between supervisors and workers or workers and clients, and others. The final chapter describes the result, the increasing desire for authenticity in themselves and others.

Join us as we explore this fascinating book and discuss its meaning in today’s work environments and personal lives! You will never look at the phrase “service with a smile” the same way again!

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Read with us:

Hochschild, A. R. (2012). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Univ of California Press.

To know more:

Raghuram, Sumita. (2013). “Identities on call: Impact of impression management on Indian call center agents.” Human Relations 66(11): 1471-1496.

Ella referred to this paper during the episode in response to dialogue concerning call center agents having to adopt different accents and mannerisms to connect better with remote customers of different nationalities.