Just the other day at a workshop, after filling out a communication assessment, we heard this:

emotional labor

“I’m an engineer. This is all great stuff, but really hard to quantify.”

And later in the workshop, after we made another point, we responded by saying:

“You can quantify the effects of emotional mismanagement on the bottom line, in terms of lost productivity, health issues, declining quality of production, and overall employee disengagement.”

The engineer nodded his head.

Emotional labor lies at the final frontier of post-modern workplace considerations. It’s a space that care workers, mothers, therapists, and social workers have inhabited for years. And, in an economy where manually (or technically) laboring was once seen as scarce, emotional labor didn’t matter much.

And yet…

  • 40 hours a week, the average person goes to another location, away from their home, and interacts with people that they did not choose
  • 26% of people report that they are disengaged at work and with work, and 13% of those people are actively disengaged at work
  • 44% of companies are outsourcing jobs to other countries, across all sectors, with the vast majority of employers reporting that they are doing so “to control costs.”

What kind of labor matters?

Well, the kind that can’t be outsourced:

  • The kind that addresses people’s emotional inner lives, where we spend 99% of our time.
  • The kind that addresses issues of self-awareness, leadership, emotional intelligence, focus, discipline, and many other emotional tasks.
  • The kind that builds resiliency encourages accountability and that develops people to be more than just cogs in the machine.
  • The kind that develops and encourages interpersonal communication, conflict engagement, and responsibility.

The challenge in this paradigm shift (for every organization), comes when 20% of the people in an organization are doing 80% of the emotional labor.

But, emotional labor, moving forward in a world where more and more will be accomplished by fewer and fewer people, is the only kind of labor that matters.

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