New Terms for New Times

… and, admittedly, some old times, too. The terms “emotional” and “affective” labor come to me from Lee Skallerup Bessette’s Educase article called “Affective Labor: The Need for, and Cost of, Workplace Equanimity.”

In her groundbreaking book, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild defines emotional labor as work that is done to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.” Her book is foundational for understanding emotional and affective labor. It also perfectly describes the kind of intensive work we have been asked to perform these past few weeks, as well as the kind of labor we typically and invisibly do even in less stressful periods.

Hold onto these terms when you’re feeling challenged. If you’re a leader or a partner, you obviously have a responsibility to manage your feelings, and you know that. But the deeper why is that the outward expression of your feelings often function as dominoes for the feelings of others. You know that, too, but you probably forget it from time to time.

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