Emotional labor or emotional work is composed of tasks that require a high degree of understanding or management of emotions. Women are disproportionately believed to be good at these tasks as a function of their gender, regardless of their actual skill or willingness. The tasks are also commonly "extra" or undervalued for the amount of actual labor or time spent on them, and left out of official job descriptions or task assignments even when the function is vital to the organization.
Types of Tasks
- Teaching a new skill without making the learner feel bad about not having already known it
- Understanding a particular user's perspective
- Explaining a particular user's perspective to a teammate
- Conflict resolution or mediation in the workplace
- "Emotional canary" conflict resolution: sensing an impending conflict before it arrives and mediating it before it becomes a larger issue
- Community management
- Writing an apology
- Customer service
- Maintaining a pleasant/unruffled facade while performing external-facing duties
- Maintaining a pleasant/unruffled facade while performing internal-facing duties
- Building design personas
- Brushing off insensitive or cruel behavior from others because they "can't be expected to behave better"
- Acting as a counselor or therapist for others, without commensurate pay or qualifications
- Pretending as though everything is fine when everything is, in fact, not fine
- Feeding emotional vampires
- Women are naturally good at this!
- No one else has time.
- It's not like it's REAL work
- But if you don't do it, nobody else will
- We couldn't possibly replace you if you left us
- It's not possible to teach skills like that.
Double standards and other such nonsense
- "You're too emotional to be capable of a serious technical role."
- "We only hired you because we thought you had a good attitude, there are plenty of people with your technical skills."
- Men who have realized the necessity of emotional labor exhort their peers to be kind; it's picked up as a general call to the field: "be more kind!" Meanwhile, people who are already considerate of others can feel as though they're being called upon to take full responsibility for all the emotions of others, while people who are being inconsiderate may feel no responsibility for their effects on others in the slightest.
- "I know you're burned out from constant tech support, but imagine if we put Local Ragebeast on the phone!? You know what that would do to the customers."
- "Oh no, we couldn't possibly require that HE stop outright insulting people. He's too important to lose."
- Woman in tech calmly explains the difficulties of dealing with a yelly boss. "Wow, she's so emotional about this."