“An Investigation into whether Emotional Labor and other work strains have a long term impact on the Physical and Mental health of Women in the Service Profession”, By Dr. Alia Serkal, Senior Director of Recruitment at du
This lecture tackled the issue of “Emotional Labor” in the service profession and how it impacts the physical and mental health of its employees. The implication of the research is to enable organizations to identify the factors which contribute to the increase of physical and psychological symptoms in the service industry, and assist employees in managing these. Dr Alia Al Serkal joined Du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company) in 2007 as Senior Director of Recruitment at Du (2007). While at Emirates Airline (2001-2007), as a Senior Psychologist at Group Psychology, her duties included assessing airline staff during the recruitment process, or promotions in various departments by using various psychometric tools. It is during her work at Emirates Airlines that, Dr. Serkal conducted this longitudinal study amongst cabin crew, who are predominantly women. Her methodology included a questionnaire which included measures of Emotional Labor (FEWS), organizational factors, the experience of physical (PSI), psychological symptoms (GHQ) and burnout measures (MBI).
“Emotional Labor” is a term coined by Hochschild in 1983, as “The management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display; emotional labor is sold for a wage and therefore has exchange value”. Women in the service profession exercise ‘Emotional labor” on a daily basis. Dr. Serkal also went on to define the concept of “Emotional Dissonance”, using Hochschild’s definition, which is “maintaining a difference between feeling and feigning over the long run leads to strain”. Only recently, has the discipline of Psychology studied the impact of emotions at work. Dr. Serkal’s study explored cabin crews’ expectations for their role before they began training and compared the results 18 months later. The sample of this study was 35 participants; with an average age of 24 and 20% male, with diverse nationalities some coming from collectivist and others from individualistic cultures.
The main results of her study indicated that although cabin crew experienced moderate levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, they were also experiencing low personal accomplishment on the job. Results also indicated that the more emotional exhaustion is experienced, the more feedback is provided, the higher the experience of emotional dissonance and therefore ultimately the lower the job satisfaction. In addition, Dr. Serkal’s study demonstrated that experiencing less role clarity was a predictor of emotional exhaustion, while the stronger role clarity was a predictor of personal accomplishment. Dr. Serkal ended with some recommendations based on her research, which indicate that women need to be trained on how to better cope with emotional dissonance, as a means to avoid emotional exhaustion. Organizations would need to promote a favorable working environment which would encourage autonomy, positive staff interaction and opportunities for growth.