Barista’s Burden

This article talked about the “emotional labor” that baristas have to go through but also talked about flight attendants, sales people, and other service workers. Fake smiles and positive attitudes are understood to be apart of those job descriptions. The author and other researchers have realized though that emotions can’t just be flipped on and off and smiles aren’t as easy to fake as people like to think. It can be detrimental to a person’s mental and physical.

This type of emotional labor can be just as taxing as physical labor can be but, the problem is that not many employers see it this way. The author gave an example of a psychologist that now works at Pennsylvania State University and is a leader in emotional labor research about how she worked at Starbucks during grad school and would be exhausted at the end of the day and she just thought that she was being “whinny” but from the research that has been given she now knows that the amount of effort she was putting in at expressing emotions she wasn’t even feeling was completely wearing her down.

Emotional labor effects some of the deepest part of a person. True emotions like genuine smiles, frowns and laughs come from the amygdala which is also responsible for fundamental impulses like fear and lust.  Therefore, by putting on a fake smile or expressing fake emotions that you aren’t really feeling you are essentially going against what the amygdala wants. That kind of emotional effort can get tiring because you are fighting internally but, not only that it can also over time become unhealthy.

Grandey, the psychologist from PSU stated that  “If your feelings are different from what you’re showing, you can start to get back strain, neck strain and stomachaches” (Woolston, 2018). The author talked about a couple of different studies done in 2013 and 2014 where they found that people that had jobs that you had to fake emotions suffered more from insomnia, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion at home, tended to be less helpful once they got home since they were so exhausted, and they also found that these people had a lack of control when it came to food.

People that are naturally more cheerful may not suffer from this kind of exhaustion because putting on the a smile may not be as big of problem as it is for other people. Some people are just better at it than others. The author offered a solution for the people that it is not as easy for which was for them to actively create the emotions that are needed for that job. It was talked about as method acting, the example that was talked about was a flight attendant could convince themselves that they actually do enjoy doing safety demonstrations that nobody actually watches. The person could pretend they are at some party or something instead of doing the boring demonstration and that could possibly put them in a better mood that would then make it easier to express the emotions that need to be expressed during that time.

This kind of emotional labor also depends where you are in the world, this was mainly based off of how the service employers expect employees to be over here in the U.S. but, it gave the example of France and how they might not have this kind of strain because over there they are not expected to be as nice and the “rude” act is kind of accepted over there versus here where you are supposed to be extremely nice to all of the customers no matter how they are to you.

Grandey gave a couple ways that employers could help make the emotional labor not as hard on the employees such as having a break room where they are out of the customers eyes and can just be their selves and relax for a couple minutes before they go back out, she also said that there needs to be a more positive work environment so that it is easier to express those happy emotions because if you are getting screamed at in the back and have to go out acting all happy afterwards that can cause emotional contradiction.

I found this article to be very interesting because I had never even thought about the emotional toll that these types of workers go through and many others don’t either as well so I thought it was great to get educated about it and hopefully employers are too so that it can help everyone in the long run.

Image result for fake smile

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About krb8

I am a UMW sophomore and I am a psych major. I play soccer and volleyball. My family and friends are the most important things to me. I love pandas and cows! My goal in life is to be the happiest and most successful me I can be :)

7 thoughts on “Barista’s Burden

  1. abalgoyen

    I loved your post because this seems to be so relevant in our society. I think that this so noticeable when a worker at like starbucks does genuinely ask you how you are doing. This happened to me the other day, someone at starbucks did not immediately ask me for my order but instead stopped and asked how I was doing and began a conversation with me about umw because I had a umw sweatshirt on. It was unexpected because it is so rare.

  2. kmarston

    I have GAD and am prone to bouts of depression as a result of my OCD, so there have been many times when I’ve had to fake my emotions. I’m curious as to how “emotional labor” affects people with different mental health diagnoses who have to fake their emotions in response to their environment. The symptoms of mental health disorders are already taxing, which must lead to increased exhaustion in situations where they have to perform “emotional labor.” I’ve had to work various customer service jobs before, as many college students do, and my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. I am extremely extroverted, however interacting with eternally dissatisfied customers takes a toll on anybody. Also, you talked about method acting in your post, but I’m kind of curious as to whether actual actors experience “emotional labor.” They are constantly performing a role in which they have to fake specific emotions. Does this impact their mental and physical health as well, just like other people who work in customer service careers? True they are doing this for a career that they (hopefully) enjoy, however does faking these emotions over and over again eventually lead to some kind of harm? This phenomenon also calls out the popular phrase, “fake it till you make it.” We’re often told to just fake our way through something until we actually believe it. Your post was an interesting read! This research calls into question how harmful “emotional labor” can be on the human brain and body and how important it is for employers, family members, and others to understand how faking a job is not always more important than a customer’s satisfaction.

  3. sierrahorton

    Great blog post and a very interesting topic! While I was in high school, I worked in a salon for two years and I’m sure everyone can relate with faking a smile, so immediately I was very interested in this post and what you had to say about faking a smile and the “kind and happy” attitude. I like that one of the researchers of this study had personal experience of this and I can completely agree with the statement that faking a smile is exhausting. It’s simply tiring to fake a joyful attitude when you don’t actually feel that way. Until now, I had never really heard of emotional labor and I had no idea how it affects us, but it all makes a lot of sense that going against the true feeling of our amygdala wears us down more than going with what our body wants. This perfectly explains the “internal battle” we feel when we “fake” our emotions. Although I knew that this is tiring, I never thought about how it truly affects our bodies with things like back pain and stomach aches like you mentioned. However, I do wonder if the people that had more lack of control with their food were predisposed to this or if it correlates with anything in particular. Another perfect example from my life that I think of is my years of cheerleading, I didn’t always want to smile, but I had to. In hindsight, it makes me curious as to if my exhaustion in these situations was purely physical because of cheer or if it also had to do with the internal battle I was having with my amygdala in faking a smile. Nonetheless, I love the suggestions this article made about having a break room available out of the way for employees to relax and an increase of genuine positivity in the work environment.

  4. mocooper

    I could really relate to this article as someone who has worked many retail jobs. If I ever went into work in a bad mood I would always come home feeling so exhausted. I also always thought that I was being a bit of a brat so this is kinda comforting to know that thats not completely the case.

  5. mhook

    I definitely understand the feeling of being burden of trying to be so positive and nice when you aren’t actually feeling that way, but you have to because it is “part of the job” It is especially taxing when you aren’t getting the same positive attitude reciprocated back to you. It is hard fighting your true emotions when all you want to to do relax and take a moment to breathe before you really hit breaking point.

  6. alee9

    I definitely understand the burden of having to put on an emotional show in the workplace. I currently work at the campus bookstore, but I have also worked with political campaigns and in education in the past. I usually have somewhat the opposite experience, where getting to work with customers and just follow the script in asking how they are and wishing them well helps at least to take my mind off the stress that I have from school work. The biggest exception is when I’ve been up late and haven’t had enough rest, which is when it’s hardest to maintain that customer service persona.

  7. shelbykbell

    This was really interesting to read! I’m not surprised at the findings of jobs that require emotional labor, having to fake a smile for shift after shift would get exhausting. I like how the article also talked about the cultural differences of emotional labor, because not every country expects all employees to be cheerful and nice. It would be interesting to see if people originally from another country that have moved here have the same emotional labor effects, or if they more so follow what their home country expects in workers.

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