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The 20th century witnessed a remarkable growth in service industries. One result of the transition was the need to manage the expectations and experiences of customers, clients and other stakeholders through controlled interaction. In 1983, Arlie Hochschild identified the management of a workforce’s dealings with the public as Emotional Labour – “A form of Emotion Regulation that creates a publicly visible facial and bodily display within the workplace.”

While most service industry professions require some degree of emotional management, there are a number of occupations that rely almost entirely on the way in which employees deal with the public and require face-to-face or voice interactions with their customers; these occupations include, but are not limited to, account management, customer service, nursing, sales and hotel management. Professionals in these fields are primarily expected to meet their customers’ expectations, and the chances of rising up the career ladder are greater for those professionals who manage their emotions well at the workplace than those who don’t.

In many instances, the organisation provides guidelines according to which a workforce needs to mould its interactions. For instance, telephone operators, receptionists and customer care professionals are often given conversation scripts, training manuals and guides on how to ‘deal with difficult customers’ – these are meant to steer any interaction with a customer towards results that the company has previously identified as desirable.

Professionals involved in high stress occupations such as nursing and law enforcement are expected to go further in managing their emotions – it is not uncommon for them to have to deal with people who are often unwilling to accept any instructions being given and rely on other skills such as ‘negotiation’ and ‘bedside manners’ to ‘create a rapport’ in order to ‘influence’ their customers into accepting their actions.

Professionals that practise emotional management are often the ‘face’ or ‘voice’ of their organisations and their training and evaluation should always be a priority for the organisation.

– Monica Peter
The writer is an HR Professional who can be contacted via LinkedIn. monica.peter87@gmail.com

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 30, 2013.