Possibly the Creepiest Quote I’ve Read Lately …

Smiley Face“Creepy as it sounds, emotional labor is a growing presence in this economy, coming soon to a fast-food outlet near you.”


Emotional labor, for those who do not know, is the term for the tendency of some organizations to require their employees to control and even project certain emotions to customers, regardless of their own state of mind,  rather than just sell products or services.

I understand the need for appropriate attitudes when dealing with the public.  I have done this at length and a little emotional intelligence combined with a well-developed self-control is essential for healthy and successful relationships in most businesses.

However, I am disturbed by what seems to be a move toward generating emotions, possibly based on false assumptions.

Sigh … does the word “Authentic” mean anything here?

Timothy Noah dissects this disturbing trend in Labor of Love: The Enforced Happiness of Prez a Manger”… it’s a well-written and thoughtful reflection, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Here’s a synopsis of what has to be one of the worst employee environments of which I have ever heard:

“Pret keeps its sales clerks in a state of enforced rapture through policies vaguely reminiscent of the old East German Stasi. A “mystery shopper” visits every Pret outlet once a week. If the employee who rings up the sale is appropriately ebullient, then everyone in the shop gets a bonus. If not, nobody does. This system turns peers into enthusiasm cops, …”

When your culture can be described with phrases like “enforced rapture”, “appropriately ebullient”, and (personal favorite idiot phrase) “enthusiasm cops”, I think it’s time to rethink your strategy.

On the local front, one grocery store which I frequent has online surveys to complete after every shopping experience.  Since I like the possibility of winning a gift card for groceries, I usually complete these surveys as honestly as possible.

One question they always ask at the end just galls me.  It goes something like this:

“What would have made your shopping experience more fun?”

Aside from free groceries, I cannot think of a single thing, not even juggling clowns in the deli section, a dunking booth at the end of the frozen food section, or dancing girls on top of every register … well maybe that last one, but I digress.

Here is a sample of my usual snarky reply to the “fun” question:

“Nothing will make my grocery shopping more fun, but I do not grocery shop to have fun.  I shop to secure reasonably priced and relatively fresh or well-preserved food and related items.  I expect fair prices, healthy choices, some variety, and a speedy and correct check-out process.  I’ll have my fun eating all the stuff I buy.”

While I am on this particular customer service rant, let me add that I do not want to be “surprised” or “delighted” either.  I want to have a calm and predictable experience, where I can count on the integrity and quality of what I pay for.

Fun is what I have when I get to write about my personal pet peeves …

Having a whopping good time right now in the Heartland ….


Related Posts:

Emotional Labor – David Schwartz

Emotional Labor Doesn’t Pay – Harvard Business Review

The Sociology of Emotional Labor – Annual Review of Sociology