This is due to many issues and factors, including the absence of support from other people in doing the labor that matters most. Managers, supervisors, and business leaders, don’t often think that emotional labor has much value because it’s not easily measureable, quantifiable, or knowable.
The other factor that causes employees to either actively disengage or just not engage, is a lack of understanding about the difference between work, a job, and labor. For far too long we have confused those three terms. So let’s get some clarity:
Work is passion. It’s the thing that lights up an engaged employee in the morning. Some employees are engaged by tracking numbers on spread sheets, and some employees are engaged by dealing with difficult people. The vast majority of employees are disengaged with work that they didn’t start being passionate about in the morning, and will forget the second they get home.
A job is series of tasks for which employees get paid. But then again, maybe not. Employee’s jobs are often confused with the term work. However, tasks rarely get employees engaged in the workplace due to gaming of the internal organizational reward and promotion system, strong at the workplace social sanctioning, and continual conflicts between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for accomplishing tasks.
Labor is the combination of work (passion) plus a series of tasks (job) that spool out across the overall life of an employee. The term “labor” is often only used in the economic sense to describe a series of discreet outputs. But, for the not engaged or actively disengaged employee, labor is a continual drudgery, full of disappointment, stress, conflict, and confusion. Labor is something to be abandoned as soon as the workday ends, and dreaded as soon as the weekend closes, to be put down with relief at retirement.
Managers, supervisors, and business leaders, as well as organizations on the whole, have a social responsibility that goes beyond sharing profits, engaging in wage transparency, or working collaboratively within a local, national, or international context. They have the responsibility to their current and future employees, to create opportunities for engaging in work that will dovetail with individual passions, in the pursuit of a lifetime of long-term emotional labor.
Otherwise, social conflict, organizational collapses, and fewer and fewer outsized rewards accruing to an ever shrinking pool of employees, is one of many possible, conflict-filled futures.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org