The Role Of Emotional And Aesthetic Labor In Higher Education

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When workers participate in emotional labor, they control their emotions in order to fulfill the company's goals as well as its priorities. Recent research on emotional labor has all contributed to closing the gap created by the neglect of emotional labor impacts on the efficacy of educators, especially in higher education. This study's associated lines of inquiry are aesthetic labor inclusions as emotional techniques. "Aesthetic" labor is concerned with sounding right and looking decent within the confines of the corporate structure. The components of the work include personal accents and grooming, style and sense of dress, and the body language. Aesthetic labor has been studied based on its existing data. This study intends to examine artistic employment in connection with emotional work in the lecturers' context in higher education. The paper aims to identify types of emotional labor together with the models of emotional labor strategies in the regard of lecturers in higher education. The research shall also determine the possible impacts of the artistic work and emotional labor on the major stakeholders in higher education.


According to the seminal work of Arlie Russel Hochschild on emotions of flight attendants, the term sensitive labor is defined as, “the management of feelings to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display”. The groundbreaking work of Hochschild promoted the development of interests in the emotional labor (Bolton and Boyd 2003, p. 289). Hochschild’s comprehensive approaches to emotional labor suggest expressions of feelings to help teachers in conducting lessons. However, Bolton and Boyd (2003) argue that emotional labor remained unaccounted for and undervalued concerning employee reward. In effect, emotional labor is another form of paid work. Job-emphasized emotional labor focuses on the interaction duration, intensity, frequency, and display rules with the customers or the clients who in the scenario are the students as the occupation requires (Chen and Kristjánsson 2011, p. 350). Secondly, job-emphasized emotional labor utilizes the employees’ focused approaches that involve the processes of emotion regulations by applying various strategies.

In higher education, the aesthetic and emotional labor are areas that have not been thoroughly researched. The major priority of the literature research is based on reducing the gap between the two labor components, as well as their roles in higher education. The purpose of this study is to continue the crucial debates and discussion that: educational institutions, as the providers of the third level education services, need front-line staffs such as lectures. Such front-line team engages in the emotional labor to provide a favorable environment for learning. Chen and Kristjánsson (2011) argue that there is little attention concerning the training and developing teachers in emotional labor, even though much focus is placed on the preparation of teachers in the spheres of life skills, citizenship and moral practice of teaching. Past studies revealed that there is a direct connection between job satisfaction, emotional labor, and emotional exhaustion (Mahoney et al. 2011, p. 406). In examining emotional work in Chinese higher learning institutions, Zhang and Zhu (2008) determined adverse impacts of surface actions on job dissatisfaction as well as educator burnout. In contrary, the same research established that educators who involved in genuine and profound emotional labor experiences positive effects of satisfaction of a job. Aesthetic labor is viewed as “an under-appreciated and under-developed” types of employment in the industry of service. Higher education provision can be considered to be in a function. The components of aesthetic work such as personal accents and grooming, style and sense of dress, and also the body language is not viewed as connected to the education jobs. The ability of the employees to articulate scholarships helps to secure successful promotion and recruitment in the academic field. Nevertheless, appearance and attractiveness are seen as essential in the educational area in the higher education (Granleese and Sayer 2006). Moreover, the study examines the effects on the students, educators, and educators as stakeholders of aesthetic labor and emotional labor in higher education.

Strategies for Emotional Labor

There are three types of emotional plans that include: genuine emotional labor, surface acting, and broad acting (Chen and Kristjánsson 2011, pp. 349-358). In expanding on the psychological labor knowledge, understanding and insight on the impacts of the educator efficiency and effectiveness, the four strategies of emotional labor are explored. While the first three procedures are broadly applied in the comprehension of “emotional” work, the fourth approach which is aesthetic labor has been examined in isolation.

Surface Acting

Surface Acting facilitates the confirmation of the displayed regulations of the jobs through the imitation of emotions which are not real (Humphrey et al. 2015, p. 751). Concerning lecturing, a good illustration of surface acting could be meant to show extraordinary interest and enthusiasm for the lecture contents by upbeat deliveries. Effective lecturers successfully hide the contrasting emotions from the learners. The emotional labor displays do not seem inauthentic or false. According to the past studies, surface acting is one of the significant ways of performing emotional labor. Some scholars refer to surface acting as “faking in good faith”, and that implies expressing emotions which are consistent with the displayed rules despite the fact that the emotions are not felt. For instance, the lecturers could motivate and inspire mediocre student by reminding them that “they are well able for fourth year” when the lecturer understands so well that the student is academically weak. In such a case the instructor “fakes in good faith” with the aim of reassuring, inspiring and motivating the learners in the interest of the students’ confidence building and retention (Mahoney et al. 2011, p. 406). The relevant emotional surface acting display is expected from workers as good practice. Nevertheless, surface acting might also provide the learners with false hopes, especially when the students are struggling academically that in turn may result from withdrawal from the course of study due to emotional distress.

Deep Acting

Deep acting would focus on the emotional behaviors and feelings unlike the surface acting that focuses on the outward expressions. In the scenarios of lecturers, low action would involve the educators experiencing feelings or emotions which they would wish to display or convey. For instance, the tutor may prepare to deliver his or her lesson in advance by listening to upbeat music in increasing motivation and personal energy. The tutor may also engage students in joking or laughing about the subject of the study to bring the topic to life or use relevant illustrations which evoke the related emotions when explaining the issue of the study. According to Lazányi (2010), in-depth acting involves deliberate efforts as well as cognitive processes. Deep acting demands for substantial efforts to engage the students positively as the lecturer conducts his or her lesson live in the class set.

Genuine Emotional Labor

Genuine emotional labor is commonly known as the spontaneous emotional labor (Chen and Kristjánsson 2011, pp. 349-358). It involves expressing the emotions that are naturally felt by an individual. The real feelings typically occur, and therefore the staff or workers do not have to summon such emotions. For instance, an instructor may naturally feel concern and empathy for the learners who request deadline extensions for the homework and assignments that are already due. When the lecturer feels empathy and concern for such students, the tutor may opt to extend the submission date of the tasks. The emotions are naturally felt and are dictated by the feelings of the employee at that particular time. Yin (2015) asserts that deep acting as well as emotional labor are robust strategies of passionate work for the lecturers to use and employ when appropriate.

Aesthetic Labor

The paradigm of Hochschild emotional labor offers prominence to the employees' “management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display”. By changing the attention from the emotional labor to aesthetic labor, employees critically participate in the "corporeal or somatic" emotional labor aspects. The aesthetic labor activates the accelerating labor mobilization valued by the employers as critical attributes of the job specifically but not exclusively in image moved industries such as hospitality as well as retail. While the broad acting action of Hochschild as a strategy of emotional labor needs a change of feelings, Lazányi (2010) also argues that participating in 'beautiful' work fosters similar change of self in such a manner to embrace the profession or job aesthetics. Educators or tutors display artistic labor regularly both subconsciously and consciously, knowingly and unknowingly in the environment of learning in the manner in which they walk, speak, stand and thereby think and feel.

Another significant aspect of aesthetic labor is the essential connections with the appearance existence discrimination at the place of work. There is less information that people know about the legality of the aesthetic labor. Cavico et al. (2012) offers a quality and valuable understanding of whether aesthetic labor is legal or illegal as well the insight into the employment appearance discrimination. This research explores the ethical and legal effects of “lookism” or appearance. The discrimination on appearance may be associated with a safeguarded ground in the legislation of equality; the employees could have a legal case to follow up. Cavico et al. (2012) links appearance with revenue, “economists argue that appearance should always be a factor when it affects the bottom line”.

Cavico et al. (2012) assert that aesthetic labor is not explicitly remunerated or acknowledged by the employers but offered as the efforts of discretionary which is beyond the employment contract.

Emotional Labor Strategies


Surface Acting

Show relevant emotions, even the display does show real feelings.

Deep Acting

Experience and feel the real emotions. Deep acting engages in the activities and thoughts which encourage and promote the actual feelings.

Genuine Emotional Labor

Genuine and spontaneous feelings, that adhere to the social expectations. On Genuine Emotional Labor, the emotion happens or occurs naturally.

Aesthetic labor

Display self-presentation skills that include appearance and attitude.

Emotional and Aesthetic Labor: Educator Effectiveness

According to Hochschild, emotional labor refers to “feeling rules”, that is to say how one should act, look, and feel in his or her job. Emotional labor can be used in the public sector, while the analysis of Hochschild focuses on the work of the commercial private sector. According to Yin (2015), ”the literature on emotional labor in higher education is limited, the exception being the education of nurses”. What is attractive to me is the fact that the lecturers are required to carry out emotional labor in generating an efficient and conducive environment of learning yet the lecturers for the most remain unrecognized, unappreciated and unrewarded extrinsically for such kind of employment. The lecturers may, of course, experience personal accomplishments and higher job satisfaction through the utilization of the strategies of emotional labor as they train and teach learners.

Other studies illustrate the relationship between the job associated stresses and emotional needs and demands of various positions. The association introduces the concept of “hierarchy of emotional labor”. Sales work and customer service such as hospitality, banking, retail sales, together with the caring professions like police officers, teachers, indicate the most critically emotional labor level when explored concerning regulation, duration, intensity, variety, and frequency of moving the display. Nevertheless, there are convincing arguments that emotional labor of teachers is distinctive from other service occupations. For example, the interaction with the learners may be intense, long-term and repeated for the teachers (Zhang and Zhu 2008, pp. 105-122). The idea is contrary to the commercial services where link and connection may be outlined as once-off as well as short-term. Moreover, the remunerations of lecturers usually are relatively predictable, stable and well-defined along the service scale length. The emotional labor performance is not connected to any extrinsic reward, but instead carried out for personal reasons associated with individual accomplishments as well as job satisfaction. Critical skills of lecturing are to deliver the content by teaching well and in enthusiastic fashion as well engaging the learners during the lesson. Emotional labor is a crucial aspect of accomplishing proper teaching of the students. Emotional regulations, as well as strategies of work, are used in dealing with the mature learners in higher education in contrary to primary teachers who regularly depend on actual or naturally felt emotions.

Lecturing is an emotional job. Lazányi (2010) explains the emotional job among the university educators as the “degree of adjustment of someone’s inner feelings or external actions to show the appropriate feelings” in offering valuable and quality teaching to the classes allocated to them. Therefore, the effective teaching is coupled with academic lack of awareness and emotional labor, which is a major element in the effectiveness of the lecturer. An educator during a single lesson may show different postures and gestures, emotive facial expressions and different intonation in delivery, regular eye contact with the learners, use of engaging examples and humor, and movement while lecturing to keep the students attentive and active during the lecture. According to Zhang and Zhu (2008), the “employers’ increasingly desire that employees should have the right appearance”.

In short aesthetic labor is about sounding and looking right to ensure that the employee delivers the brand image of the employer. Aesthetic labor consists of accent, sound of voice, personal grooming, style and sense of dress and body language. In many service industries like commercial airlines, retail, and hospitality, which are driven by the image and reputation, the significance of appearance and model or the aesthetic reality has been embraced and practiced for years.


Bolton, S.C. and Boyd, C., 2003. Trolley dolly or skilled emotion manager? Moving on from Hochschild's managed heart. Work, employment, and society, 17(2), pp.289-308.

Cavico, F.J., Muffler, S.C., and Mujtaba, B.G., 2012. Appearance discrimination in employment: Legal and ethical implications of “lookism” and “lookphobia." Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal, 32(1), pp.83-119.

Chen, Y.H., and Kristjánsson, K., 2011. Private feelings, public expressions: Professional jealousy and the moral practice of teaching. Journal of Moral Education, 40(3), pp.349-358.

Humphrey, R.H., Ashforth, B.E. and Diefendorff, J.M., 2015. The bright side of emotional labor. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(6), pp.749-769.

Lazányi, K., 2010. Emotional labor and its consequences in a health-care setting. In Proceedings of FIKUSZ’10 Symposium for Young Researchers, Budapest-Hungary, pp. 149-156.

Mahoney, K.T., Buboltz Jr, W.C., Buckner V, J.E. and Doverspike, D., 2011. Emotional labor in American professors. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(4), p.406.

Yin, H., 2015. The effect of teachers’ emotional labor on teaching satisfaction: moderation of emotional intelligence. Teachers and Teaching, 21(7), pp.789-810.

Zhang, Q. and Zhu, W., 2008. Exploring emotion in teaching; Emotional labor, burnout, and satisfaction in Chinese higher education. Communication Education, 57(1), pp.105-122.

November 17, 2022

Business Education


Management Work Learning

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Employee Labor Study

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