The Managed Heart: Summary Review

This is a summary review of The Managed Heart containing key details about the book.

What is The Managed Heart About?

"The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling" is a book by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild that examines the effects of emotional labor on workers in service industries.

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The Managed Heart shows what occurs when emotions work, feeling rules, and the gift of exchange are introduced into the public world of work? In search of the answer, the author closely examines two groups of public-contact workers: flight attendants and bill collectors. The flight attendant’s job is to deliver a service and create further demand for it, to enhance the status of the customer and be "nicer than natural." The bill collector’s job is to collect on the service, and if necessary, to deflate the status of the customer by being "nastier than natural." Between these extremes, roughly one-third of American men and one-half of American women hold jobs that call for substantial emotional labor. In many of these jobs, they are trained to accept feeling rules and techniques of emotion management that serve the company’s commercial purpose.

Summary Points & Takeaways from The Managed Heart

Some key summary points and takeaways from the book include:

* Emotional labor refers to the work of regulating one's own emotions and expressing specific emotions in order to meet organizational demands and fulfill the expectations of clients or customers.

* Emotional labor is prevalent in service industries, where workers are expected to perform emotional work as part of their jobs, such as in the airline, hospitality, and retail sectors.

* Emotional labor can have negative effects on workers, such as stress, burnout, and emotional exhaustion, as well as a sense of alienation and a loss of authenticity in their personal and professional lives.

* The managed heart refers to the process by which workers are trained and expected to manage their emotions in order to conform to organizational norms and expectations.

* The commercialization of human feeling refers to the commodification of emotional experiences, such as in the form of customer service, and the transformation of emotional experiences into economic value.

* The book highlights the tension between the importance of emotional labor for creating positive customer experiences and the impact it can have on workers, who are expected to manage their emotions in order to meet organizational demands.

* The book raises important questions about the effects of emotional labor on the well-being of workers and the potential for emotional labor to be harmful or exploitative.

* Overall, "The Managed Heart" provides a valuable contribution to our understanding of the effects of emotional labor on workers and the consequences of the commercialization of human feeling.

Who is the author of The Managed Heart?

Arlie Russell Hochschild is an American professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and writer. Hochschild has long focused on the human emotions that underlie moral beliefs, practices, and social life generally.

The Managed Heart Summary Notes

Summary Note: The Hidden Emotional Work in Service Jobs

The idea of emotional labor is the focus of sociologists who study work, but it is not often discussed openly in everyday conversation. Emotional labor is the conscious management of one’s feelings to ensure they align with the requirements of a particular commercial or social setting. Service workers in many industries, such as flight attendants and baristas, are expected to display friendly attitudes and smiles to customers all day long. Flight attendants undergo specific training on how to smile “genuinely” and must be warm and cheerful while serving food and drinks. Small talk and smiles might seem insignificant, but without emotional labor, many customers would perceive their service as inadequate.

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Actors also engage in emotional labor, creating the illusion of experiencing emotions that are not their own. However, the emotional labor performed by actors is part of the pursuit of art, while the emotional labor requirements in the service industry are engineered by corporations to increase profits. Emotional labor is often unpaid, but it is essential to the success of many businesses. The downside of emotional labor is that it can take a toll on workers’ mental health, causing burnout and exhaustion. It is important to recognize and appreciate the emotional labor that service workers perform and to acknowledge the impact it has on their well-being.

Summary Note: The Importance of Emotional Authenticity in Our Interpersonal Relationships

Our emotions are powerful signals that reveal what the people and things in our lives mean to us. However, sometimes we find ourselves feeling emotions that clash with the rules we’ve been taught to follow. In these situations, we often engage in emotional labor, consciously managing our feelings to ensure they’re appropriate for a particular social setting. This is particularly true in customer-facing jobs like flight attendants and supermarket cashiers, where workers are expected to put on a friendly smile despite feeling exhausted or frustrated.

The disconnect between how we feel and how we know we should feel shows that there are rules for which emotions we should have and when we should have them. However, when we force ourselves to create the illusion of feeling emotions that we don’t, we risk damaging our interpersonal relationships. For example, if we pretend to be excited about a party we don’t want to attend, we might end up cancelling at the last minute or appearing disengaged during the event.

Interpersonal exchange plays a crucial role in our emotional authenticity, as our emotions reveal our underlying attitudes toward others. When we feel guilty about our emotions, it’s because our feelings go against what we’ve been taught to feel, or they might clash with our values or attitudes. By suppressing or faking our emotions, we risk sending mixed signals to the people around us, which could damage our relationships over time.

Summary Note: The Exchange of Emotional Labor as a Currency in Social Hierarchies

In our society, emotions are often used as currency in social exchanges. The amount of emotional labor that we are willing to perform or display is determined by our position in social hierarchies. Those in power are more likely to receive emotional rewards and flattery, while those with less power are required to perform emotional labor as an unavoidable aspect of their lives.

Emotional displays serve as gifts or forms of payment, and their value fluctuates depending on the context and the individuals involved in the exchange. When a new intern seeks advice from a more experienced colleague, he may acknowledge the exchange of emotional labor by expressing gratitude, which serves as a form of payment. However, the exchange rates may fluctuate if the expert constantly spends time helping out the intern. In this case, the intern may feel pressured to make his feeling-gifts more extreme, which may result in him taking the blame for mistakes made by the expert or maintaining a friendly demeanor even when the expert verbally abuses him.

The concept of emotional labor is particularly relevant for those in service industries, where workers are required to display emotions that are not necessarily authentic, but are expected from them. However, emotional labor is not limited to these industries and can be seen in various social settings, including families, friendships, and romantic relationships.

The exchange of emotional labor is a complex process that involves power dynamics and social hierarchies. It highlights the importance of understanding the social context in which emotional displays occur and the different ways in which emotions are used as currency. By recognizing the role of emotional labor in social exchanges, we can better understand the dynamics of power and inequality in our society.

Summary Note: Women and the Unequal Burden of Emotional Labor

Have you ever noticed that women tend to take on more emotional labor than men? From organizing playdates to remembering birthdays, women are often the ones expected to handle these tasks. The reason for this is that women are typically less financially independent than men and have less power and status. This means that their ability to manage feelings becomes a valuable asset in their day-to-day lives.

As a result, women often find themselves straining to remain pleasant and friendly while dealing with their own repressed aggression. They use emotions deliberately to get what they want, with 45% of women surveyed admitting to doing this, compared to only 20% of men. Women also engage in more interpersonal labor, such as listening and nurturing others, in order to compensate for their disadvantage in power and status.

This unequal distribution of emotional labor can be seen in the workplace as well, where emotionally laborious jobs are more likely to be held by women. This puts women at a disadvantage, as these jobs are often undervalued and underpaid.

It's important to recognize the burden of emotional labor that women face and work towards creating a more equitable distribution of these tasks. This means acknowledging the value of emotional labor and compensating those who do it fairly. It also means recognizing that emotional labor is not just a natural part of being a woman, but a result of unequal power dynamics. By working towards gender equality, we can create a world where emotional labor is shared equally among all genders.

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Summary Note: The Emotional Toll on Women in the Workforce

The author highlights the impact of the emotional labor imbalance on women. Women's opinions are often dismissed or ignored because their managed emotions are perceived as involuntary or uncontrollable. Studies have shown that doctors are more likely to take men's claims seriously than women's, indicating that women are generally less likely to be taken seriously. Moreover, women face the challenge of balancing emotional labor with wielding authority in their jobs, leading to conflict in some cases.

Women are often expected to do more emotional labor in their jobs than men, leading to a range of negative effects on their well-being. The emotional toll of managing their emotions and the added burden of balancing emotional labor with authority can result in burnout and frustration. Women are also subject to gender biases, which cause their opinions to be ignored or dismissed more often than men's.

While the situation has improved over time, there is still a long way to go in achieving gender equality in the workforce. It is important to recognize the impact of emotional labor imbalance and gender biases on women's well-being and to work towards creating a more equal and supportive work environment for all.

Book details

  • Print length: 339 pages
  • Genre: Sociology, Nonfiction, Feminism

What are the chapters in The Managed Heart?

Chapter 1. Private life
Chapter 2. Public life

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "The Managed Heart 's impact was—and still is—profound. It has probably done more than any other single publication to ignite and shape the exponential growth of the sociology of emotions—especially emotion is organisations." — Culture and Organization

* The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways. If you're interested in furthering your personal development, I invite you to check out my list of favorite personal development books page. On this page, you'll find a curated list of books that have personally impacted my life, each with a summary and key lessons.

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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