Emotional labour needs more recognition

workplace discussion

In September, I was part of an ANZSOG workshop on Emotional Labour. This concept was identified and written about by my colleague at the workshop, Professor Meredith Newman of Florida International University, in her academic research and her co-authored book Emotional Labor: Putting the Service in Public Service.

Meredith's research proposes three types of workers' labour: Manual, Cognitive and Emotional. The research argues that although the emotional aspects of work are such a significant part of many workers’ roles, they are often missing, not recognised, not rewarded or supported for many workers in the public service and not-for-profit areas.

The workshop described emotional labour as the missing link in HR Functions — it makes up such a large part of many managers’ and workers’ everyday tasks, but is rarely mentioned in job descriptions, performance management systems, recruitment KPIs, or training and development programs.

The people in the workshop came to agree that perhaps many of the problems that contribute to burnout and stress in so many "helping roles" might be avoided if we better understood and addressed the real emotional work done by so many.

What happened to HR?

The other thing that really hit me during the workshop was the significant role strategic Human Resource Management should be playing to help organisations, individuals,  workers and management achieve their goals.

Most participants in the workshop were clear that HR had disappeared as a major strategic player in most organisations — relegated to a minor player if there at all. It seemed cutbacks often focus on the so called backroom job.

I recall the extremely important role Human Resources played in the NSW and Victoria Police reforms, as well as the Victorian Bushfire Recovery Authority. I wonder if the cutbacks in HR staffing and the dimunition in its standing may be a greater cost to organisations than they know.

What do you think? Are emotional labour and Human Resource Management undervalued or ignored in your organisation?

Image: UK Parliament

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