"Going above and Beyond:" the Emotional Labor of Adventure Guides

Article excerpt


"And that's a canned Wanderlust trip. There's very little of your emotion in it."

--Scott, adventure guide

Emotions accompany us on our journey through experience, acting as expressions of and lenses through which we understand what we encounter. In contemporary Western culture, we tend to think of emotions as expressions of our private, inner selves. However, often our emotional responses are guided by broader social norms that accompany our various situational roles. These include our role as worker; indeed, many jobs carry with them a set of sanctioned emotional expectations. Work-related emotional expectations are particularly relevant in leisure, where workers are often called upon to facilitate a particular state of mind in those who desire a leisure experience. This paper investigates the role of emotion in one domain of leisure that has a particularly complex relationship with emotion: outdoor adventure. Specifically, the article offers an ethnographic account of the emotional expectations placed on adventure guides. In doing so, the paper aims to describe the emotional experience of adventure guiding, as well as contribute to a broader understanding of the socially constructed nature of adventure.

Emotional Labor

Hochschild's (1983) seminal work on emotion drew attention to the extent to which emotions were socially embedded and constructed. According to Hochschild, a symbolic interactionist, social life is guided by feeling rules, which are normative role expectations surrounding how to feel in different contexts. Feeling rules, such as feeling sad at a funeral or happy on one's wedding day, work to regulate emotions and thus serve as a tool for social control (Montemurro, 2001). They also are used to differentiate between normal and deviant behavior. Indeed, as Thoits (1990) argued, emotional deviance--the inability to of individuals to display the appropriate emotions for the situation--is interpreted as evidence of mental illness.

Feeling rules pervade our private lives and are embedded in the roles people occupy at home and with family and friends. However, they are also found in the public domain, in our role as worker. Although the "discourse of rationality" (Sachs & Blackmore, 1998) encourages a view of the worker as a rational being, Ashforth and Humphrey (1995) contended that "emotions are an integral and inseparable part of everyday organizational life. From moments of frustration or joy, grief or fear, to an enduring sense of dissatisfaction or commitment, the experience of work is saturated with feeling" (p. 97). As with other aspects of social life, work roles are also associated with feeling rules; often these rules are formalized in training manuals or company slogans (Hochschild, 1983). Hochschild described emotional labor as "labor that requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others" (p. 7). Emotional labor results when workers must follow organizationally sanctioned emotions in interactions with clients or customers (Johnson, 2001). Thus, many workers are expected to engage in not only physical and/ or intellectual labor, but emotional labor as well.

Although feeling rules tell us what to feel in what situations, they do not determine our emotional responses in a mechanistic way. Indeed, individuals often experience a lack of fit between their emotional response and the cultural scripts that guide them--they feel sad on their birthday or happy at a funeral, for example (Smith-Lovin, 1995). At such moments, making sense of these aberrant emotions in order to maintain some semblance of normalcy can be an individual and collective process.

For example, when the airline workers Hochschild (1983) studied experienced a misfit of emotion, they actively worked to realign their felt emotions with those prescribed by the job. …