Currently, I work for Orchard Supply Hardware as a part time cashier, meaning that I work four or eight-hour shifts. Part of this job, besides making sure that the customer pays for their items, is making sure that the customer leaves the store satisfied with their shopping experience. As the first and last person that the customer sees before they leave the store it is my job to present myself in a pleasant manner that acts in accordance with the company’s mission to be the friendly neighborhood hardware store. In order to support Orchard’s mission each employee is asked to always be smiling and be focused solely on the customers.
Ultimately, as Hochschild explains, in order to act in agreement with the company’s regulations and rules emotion becomes work. One day I had to work an eight-hour shift after finding out some sad news from my parents. Before going into work I gave myself a pep talk about how great the shift was going to be. During this shift, a customer comes into the store and he was clearly not having a good day. As he walked in I greeted him with a smile and by asking how his day was going despite my own emotional discontent. But the customer avoided eye contact and continued to walk into the store.
As time passed I helped other customers check out and greeted others as they came through the doors. After a rush of customers there was a little bit of downtime where I could stop smiling and relax a little because no one else was in line to purchase anything. During times like this Orchard asks that their employees restock or front face the items at the front of the store and put boxes together for plant carry out which gives employees time to relax from smiling and conveying their overall joy for being a cashier for the store.
Soon enough, the customer who was not having a good day comes to the front of the store loudly talking about how bad the customer service was at this store. I told the man that I could help him check out on my register and as he proceeds to follow me to the register he continues to explain very loudly to everyone in the store how terrible the customer service is. While at the register, a manager comes over and asks the customer what they could do to make his experience in the store better or if he needed her to call someone over to so that they could help him find anything that he couldn’t find.
The customer refused and pushed the programmable car key at me, telling me to hurry the transaction along. At this point both the manager and I continued to smile and listen to the customers concerns. As soon as the price for the key came up the customer threw a fit about how much it was. In the end, the customer paid for the key, but throughout his transaction, and despite his rudeness, 1 had to continue to smile. At the end of the interaction, despite the fact that I had become very irritated by this man, I had to tell him that I hoped that I would see him in the store again soon.
Hochschild’s theory of emotions as work refers to the manipulation of one’s actual emotions in order to meet the requirements of a job of being a positive influence on others in the workplace. Furthermore, Hochschild explains that emotions are not just reactions but they are also social expressions of the emotional state that give us cues on how to act. This applies to being aware of the way that one presents themselves to others, how loud one is talking, and being able to read other peoples body language so that one can respond in the correct manner.
In this case, as the customer walked in to the store I was able to read that he was not in a good mood because his brows were furrowed, he did not respond or make eye contact at my greeting, and he walked through the store with his arms crossed and his clenched jaw. The body language that this man exhibited let me know that I was going to need to adjust my communication; I was going to have to try harder to make sure that he left the store with a positive experience.
I made sure that I adjusted my tone to only reflect positivity, kept a smile on my face, and made sure that I was talking quieter than | normally would to make sure that the customer did not feel as though I was to engage in an argument with him. This man’s body language and tone of voice also let my manager know that she was needed in order to help diffuse the situation. Overall, this interaction shows that emotion is work and that one’s emotional state belongs to their employer. According to Hocschild, a person’s emotional state belongs to their employer because they do not get to choose what emotions that they are expressing.
In this situation before leven got to work I had to give myself an emotional pep talk in order to have the right emotion to begin with. As the shift progressed and I got an angry customer I did not get to express my discontent with the way that the customer was acting towards my coworkers or me. In the end, I had to continue to smile like nothing that he did bothered me and say that I hoped to see him again. This small group interaction shows two types of acting that Hochschild calls deep acting and surface acting. The deep acting takes place from the moment that I walk into the store.
Earlier that day | had received bad news so I needed to change my mood by giving myself a pep talk about being happy but this is really me changing my internal emotional state at the request of my employer. Despite the sadness and exhaustion that I was feeling Thad to convey to customers that I was very happy to have my job by smiling. The pep talk to change my emotional state to match the one that I was expressing was all deep acting in order to escape the emotional dissonance that comes from feeling one way on the inside but portraying another thing to everyone else.
The other type of acting shown was surface acting. Surface acting was used when I was dealing with the rude customer because I had to maintain the overall manner that Orchard hires me to portray while dealing with difficult customers. The forced smile and pleasant attitude during the transaction were not the true feelings that I had towards the customer who had little respect for me or anyone else in the store. I could not show him how disrespectful I thought his comments were. The manager also used this when she was catering to the customer’s mood because a person could not tell that he irritated her at all.
But in the end of it the emotional dissonance that surface acting causes is not psychologically healthy because on the inside I was not happy at all with what was going on but I had to force myself to appear calm and happy as to not upset the customer further. Maintaining a happy facade when one is not actually feeling that emotion is a lot of work. Anytime that there are not any customers anywhere close to the registers there is an shift amongst the cashiers. It is visibly seen when we are restocking the shelves and making boxes because we are no longer smiling and do not have to be focused solely on connecting with a customer.
Essentially this time serves as a break from making sure that positivity and happiness are the only emotions that are in the store. Yet the moment that a customer walks to the front of the store all cashiers demeanors change, everyone smiles and tries to make eye contact with customers. By adding this emotional component as a part of a job requirement it makes emotions into a commodity. The commodification of workers emotional states is shown through the rule at my workplace because when customers are around I need to be smiling and have relaxed body language in order to convey to those around me that I am happy.
These rules about how | should look and act in while at work cause a forced expression of a false emotion. In reality what my employers are asking me to do is lie to those around me about my emotional state in return for compensation. My emotional state is part of what Orchard is selling when they advertise that they are the friendly neighborhood hardware store. Ultimately, my emotional state is part of the environment that the company is selling in order to bring in more customers and maintain relationships with the ones that they already have.
There are also gender norms that re associated with emotion work. In general there is an overrepresentation of women in of the jobs that require people to manage emotions. Most of the cashiers that work at Orchard Supply Hardware are women and all of the customer service representatives there are also women. The rules of this job, to be happy all of the time, reinforces the gender norm that emotional work is natural to women and that women are natural emotional cheerleaders. This creates a bias towards women holding these jobs because they are viewed as supportive which can be employed to keep harmony within the workplace.
All in all, most jobs that deal with the public require some sort of emotional management that allows us to present ourselves in what is deemed as appropriate. A huge part of what Orchard subscribes to is that the experience in the store is enhanced by the happy and friendly environment. This means that as an employee I am required to be outwardly friendly and smiling all the time. Hochschild claims that the experience of being surrounded by happy people in any business will increase the overall satisfaction and the customer’s willingness to return.
Furthermore, in America at least, it reinforces the cultural norm and rule that everyone must be happy all of the time and that a person is only a valuable asset if they can convince people that they are happy. Society has set the notion that happiness is the only emotion that is the only valuable one. This can be seen in my work situation, the company requires that I smile, act pleasant, and focus on making sure that the customer is happy despite how they may treat me.
Ultimately, my job is to set the tone for the time that the customer is in the store and to make sure that the customer had nothing negative to say after they leave the store. Ultimately by working for a company I have lost the freedom that I had previously had over my emotions and my emotional state has become work. A big portion of the work that I do is emotional work where I appear to enjoy m when in reality it is all a part of the job. I am paid to stand at a register and sell an expression of happiness so that when customers come into the store they feel as though they are entering into a neighborhood full of friends.