Emotional Labour

Many employees are increasingly faced with tasks that require contact with third parties, for example customers, patients or students. This often requires showing specific emotions.

Displaying a specific emotional expression or suppressing inappropriate emotions during work related to people is termed emotional labour.

Triggers for emotional labour can be occurrences that influence a person's own emotions. Company expectations with regard to dealing with customers - known as display rules - are also an occasion for emotional labour. These rules make clear which emotions are appropriate in specific situations and how they should be expressed.

To comply with display rules, people regulate emotions with various strategies. The strategy of surface acting comprises the display of desired emotions regardless of own experienced feelings and can be produced by adapting facial expressions and bodily movements. In contrast, the strategy of deep acting is a strategy of altering feelings in the direction of the (perceived) display rules and is created, for example, through cognitive re-appraisal.

Current state of knowledge

A scoping review by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health summarises the state of scientific knowledge on emotional labour and observes its correlation with (mental) health and well-being. It also describes its relation to motivation, job satisfaction and performance. Conceptual and methodological considerations are also a part of the review. Furthermore, the authors reveal research gaps and discuss options for designing this factor.

The project "Mental Health in the Working World"

The scoping review on emotional labour is part of the project "Mental Health in the Working World - determining the current state of scientific evidence". The project assesses mental load factors based on the state of scientific knowledge.

For further information please refer to our German Website.


Emotional labour

Essay 2016

The complete article "Emotional labour" is a chapter of the book "50. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie, 18.-22. September 2016, Universität Leipzig, Abstracts".

To the Publication