Interactive Service Work


Interactive service work is any job that involve direct contact with the client, customer or even a patient. In most of these jobs employers tend to control the emotions of their employees as their employees also try to control the responses of the clients or customers. When looking at interactive jobs its good not to look at the industry whether it is manufacturing or service provider industry but rather focus on the job being done. This is because even if manufacturing and agriculture industries may not directly involve interaction with the customers there are some sectors in it which would require meeting the customers such as marketing of the products produced. It is thus good when thinking about interactive service work to focus on the type of job being done rather than the industry.

According to Arlie Hochsechild in “The managed heart” (1983) producing a constant smile on the face of customers requires a special effort and if this effort is exchanged for a salary it is termed as emotional labour.This forces many employers or managers to submit their workers into a system of monitoring their emotions to ensure there is customer/client satisfaction. This management of feelings so as to produce a significant public figure ensures that service providing industries grow while the agriculture and manufacturing industries decrease. Professional frontline service workers must accept and adapt with their emotions being monitored and managed as they try to manage the client response feelings.

The reason as to why this emotional labor is so crucial on service providing jobs is that it is difficult to differentiate between the worker, how the work is being done and the result/output of the work done since the quality of the interaction is also a part of service being provided and hence termed as a industry’s product aimed at producing profit to the company. The customers are also co-producers and not observers of the interaction required for the work to go on and produce good results.

There are many conditions that may lead to emotional labor being applied. First is when the manager believes that better yields/output in the industry is dependent on the interaction between the workers and the clients. If the manager believes that the good interaction between the worker and the consumer is what leads the company to increasing emotional labor would be invetible.If the services being provided are very vital to clients and they can’t leave without them like what most government agencies offer then emotional labor can be evaded. Secondly, if the manager doesn’t count on the workers to offer a good interaction without even monitoring there would be improvising of a system to manage the feeling of the employees. Thirdly, is when the managers count as emotional labor being very crucial to operation and success of the company but don’t trust the workers on doing it themselves. According to Barbara Gutek (1995) service encounter may be divided into relationship and encounter. Relationship is unto those workers who serve client for a long period of time while encounter is for a short while.

One method in managing the interactive service work is by selection. This is done by employers according to the requirements of the job and the public figure the company wants to create. They look at how the person is able to manage their own emotions and the expectations of the company.

The second method is by training and indoctrination mostly done to new recruit. This is done by impartation of the recommended company behavior and attitude. This is done by organizing seminars, workshops, several training sessions for the new recruits and meetings. This can be done through use of written notices, video tapes and various demonstrations on the code of behavior expected.

Emotional labor may also be implemented by putting into place rules and regulations on the body language, how the person is supposed to behave routinely, the language to be used and clear prescribed way of doing a certain thing. This may also include how the worker is supposed to feel and how to respond to the service recipient. Some of these rules are not prespecialized may be because of the complexity of the company and so left for workers to make considerations.

Monitoring is also needed to ensure workers follow the recommended code of conduct while interacting with the client. This is to ensure everything is good and working towards success of the company.

Control is also needed to some nonemployees as emotional labor does not only involve the workers but also the non-workers or the clients. It requires an extra effort to direct the client on how they should behave. This eases the work of the employee and thus efficient service provision.

However these methods of managing emotional labor are sometimes misused by managers. For example of the case about Trader joes workers are forced to smile even when the condition of the job doesn’t require one to. Thomas Nagle, one of the employee was fired as his smile was termed as not being genuine. This shows wrong prejudgments made by managers in the name of implementing emotional labor. It shows how irrational and uninformed conclusion may be made by managers as they implement emotional labor.

There is also the issue of harassment of workers by denying them some right given to them by law like communicating with the co-worker. In the Trader Joes if a worker was seen talking to the worker for more than a minute the manager would come and ask what was going on. Many workers who also asked managers legitimate questions ended up losing their job easily.

The action of the manager speaking over with the public address to Mr.Nagle while returning his sweatshirt into the locker achieved a different thing from what he expected. To him he was making a clarification to avoid confusion to workers but to Mr.Nagle it was an effort to make sure workers don’t work to their co-workers about the condition of the job. According to Nagle this was against the law as workers had a right to talk with their counterparts about the conditions of the job.


Braver man, Harry 1974.Labor and monopoly capital. The degradation of work in the twentieth century New York. Monthly review press.

Butterfield, Steve 1985, Amuay.The cult of free enterprise.Boston.South end press.