Emotional labor

In his post today, Seth Godin tells the story of a store clerk who was described as competent but who couldn’t engage very well with customers.

A few decades ago, perhaps a clerk’s competence could be narrowly define as her ability to punch the right button on the register and give correct change – what Godin calls “compliance” (just doing your work). But no more. Today, Godin says, we seek employees that can also engage in emotional labor.

Emotional labor + compliance = competence.


I can’t help but wonder: Is “ethics & compliance” the same as “emotional labor & compliance”?

One could argue that merely complying, simply following the rules or just doing what you’re told requires less emotional labor than asking the right questions, looking for better ways and standing up when things aren’t right.

When we say that we are looking for ethical employees, are we actually looking for emotional laborer? For people who don’t check their emotions at the door when the come to work? For people who want to bring their whole self to work? For people who care about our products, services, customers and mission?

I think we do. That said, what are today’s employers doing to attract and retain this type of employee? Have they engaged in the necessary emotional labor?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s