Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Gender Effects on Emotional Labor in Seoul Metropolitan Area

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Gender Effects on Emotional Labor in Seoul Metropolitan Area

Article excerpt

Public service at the street level, regardless of whether it is performed in the United States or South Korea, is marked by the need for workers to manage their own emotions as well as the emotional state of the citizen. State-agent-citizen interactions are the center of public service delivery and emotional labor is a component of this work. Law enforcement, family and children services, emergency response, public health interventions, and even zoning enforcement and tax offices, find citizens in a heightened emotional state. To get the job done, the citizen's affect must be managed along with the actual purpose of the exchange. Despite the silent and uncompensated nature of this work, a number of studies find that emotive work is self-motivating and contributes to job satisfaction (Guy, Newman, & Mastracci, 2008; Hsieh, Jin, & Guy, 2012; Lu & Guy, 2014; Mastracci, Guy, & Newman, 2012).

Much remains to be learned about who performs emotional labor, its forms, and whether it is more, rather than less, satisfying. This study addresses one dimension of this conundrum: the effect of gender. Do women and men perceive emotional labor similarly? Is it more trying for one gender than the other? Do different types of emotional labor affect women and men differently? Guy and Newman (2004) demonstrated that the types of jobs that women and men hold require different types of emotion management, with women's jobs predominantly requiring nurturance and men's jobs requiring more toughness. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether emotional labor affects women's and men's levels of job satisfaction and whether it affects their intent to change jobs. The study sample consists of Korean public servants. Cultural nuances make this study of comparative interest because so little is known about whether Confucian cultures and Western cultures result in different--or the same--workplace behaviors. For example, another study of emotional labor in Asian public service showed that Chinese workers respond very similarly to U.S. workers (Lu & Guy, 2014).

Concept of Emotional Labor

Most face-to-face and voice-to-voice jobs demand that an employee convey predictable emotions, such as cheerfulness, empathy, cordiality, confidence, toughness, or compassion. The same job may simultaneously require workers to hide negative emotions they may be feeling, such as irritation, anger, fear, or uncertainty. Guy et al. (2008) described this as the worker's effort to present emotions in a way that is desired by the employer. Each office has implicit display rules regarding emotive expression and what is desirable versus undesirable. Emotional labor requires workers to display the proper emotion while suppressing that which is undesirable; this sort of work is different from what cognitive labor requires. While the former includes sensing one's own emotional state as well as that of the citizen, determining how to respond, and then using body language and voice to express the proper emotion, the latter requires rational decision making involving cognitive knowledge. Only recently has the awareness of the emotive aspect of public service work become the object of scholarship. (1)

Arlie Hochschild (1983) was the first to identify and name emotional labor. She described it as the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display. In a similar vein, Morris and Feldman (1996) defined it as "the effort, planning, and control needed to express organizationally desired emotion during interpersonal transactions" (p. 987). Both of these definitions capture the fact that emotional labor is a form of relational work and requires that workers manage their emotions to accomplish desired ends. In the process, this form of labor often requires workers to elicit desirable emotions and actions from citizens. Although the management of emotions has always been necessary, this aspect of job performance has only recently been acknowledged. …

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