On-demand workers end up performing outsize amounts of what sociologists call “emotional labor,” or expressive work to make the customer experience a positive one so that users come back to the platform. This work extends beyond good customer service: It involves actively reshaping a worker’s inner emotional life to conform to employers’ and customers’ expectations of emotional performance.
As a bro-y yet sensitive guy who cares about gender equality, I’ve always been apprehensive about entering the fray on gender issues. But in a #MeToo world, choosing to stay in my lane to avoid being criticized just doesn’t feel like an option. Deep inside, I knew this was a conversation that I needed to be a part of. And so began the laborious act of understanding emotional labor—and now I’m convinced that this is a conversation everyone needs to be a part of.
The concept of emotional labor, introduced by Hochschild in 1983, refers to the “process by which workers are expected to manage their feelings in accordance with organizationally defined rules and guidelines”. For instance, judges are expected to appear impartial, nurses—compassionate and police officers—authoritative.