Customer service, regardless of venue, albeit clinical, retail, collections, telemarketing, or hospitality, is one on the most difficult employment areas within which to be employed. Servicing people requires the service agent to be respectful, courteous, ethical, and have the ability to resolve problems, enquiries and/or complaints as quickly and expeditiously as possible at all times. Customer service representatives in all fields must be extremely cooperative in the face of adversity, competition, resistance, and sometimes degradation. Those who choose to be employed in a customer service related field are confronted on a daily basis with a myriad of diverse personalities, customs, ethnic profiles, and cultural differences. Service personnel are, therefore, the vanguards and frontline doughboys of the service world battle. Because of the continuous and mounting pressure put on service personnel it is no wonder that employment turnover and burnout is constantly high with attitudes amongst employees oftentimes running amuck. The required skill of emotion labor is generally not recognizable by customer or employer, as both entities have removed themselves from the frontlines of customer service. The remainder of this paper will focus, therefore, on a critical analysis of the emotional labor skill as a forgotten entity.
The emotional labor phenomenon in psychology is a complex process to understand when attempting to explain something that is yet to be recognized by occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, or business professionals. Emotional labor, as a skill, can best be defined as the being able to emotionally engage and/or detach from a situation pursuit of excellent customer service (Ohlson, 2004). Further, the concept of emotional labor cannot be defined without adding the construct of emotional work to the definition. Both emotional labor and emotional work are intricately combined to form what is generally termed as value related job requirements. Knowing that all labor is emotional, what separates the novice from the artist is the emotion tied to the work. Therefore, individuals who are not emotionally connected to their job leave their most valuable attribute outside the service situation (Hei-Lin Chu, 2002). Connectivity is a behavioral construct often referred to as emotional intelligence or as define by Gardner (1983) as interpersonal intelligence. According to Gardner emotional intelligence is the relationship between one's inner self-feelings and the outward display of appropriate or inappropriate emotion. This is singularly important to hospitality workers as they must always be alert to that which they feel and that which is an appropriate display of emotion when dealing with a guest. The level of an employee's emotional maturity, social skill development, interpersonal competence, and awareness is vital the effectiveness of pristine guest service. Without these competencies the guest receives service, which is substandard and costly to the employer.
In order to maximize the quality of offered guest services there exists a need for both employer and employee to recognize the value of emotional labor. One without the other is akin to the "blind leading the blind." To this end both sides must be acutely aware of the ingredients of emotional labor, namely, worker respect, responsibility, understanding, fear, satisfaction, empathy, resentment, depression, guilt, and even anger. All too often, in the hospitality industry, employees are given little respect in terms of the job they perform. Managers often view those who wait tables, check coats, set up banquet halls, and serve drinks as being transient, uneducated, and unmotivated. The lack of most hospitality managers in giving commendations to employees who must interact with strangers on a daily basis is rarely given a second thought (Gutek, 1999). Those managers who are acclaimed by employees in terms of expended emotional labor are managers who are seen as having integrity by way of keeping promises and in the demonstration of supportive values. It is in a manager's behavioral integrity that employees will rally to the cause and bottom line profits will grow. With a lack of value for emotional labor manager integrity is severely compromised and an employee's commitment to the guest service entity will most definitely be affected.
Contained within the employee emotional labor factor and the behavioral integrity of the manager is the concept of employee commitment. With integrity and the recognition of employee emotional labor factors there will result employee commitment, in turn producing guest satisfaction, profitability, and lowered employee turnover. Once emotional labor factors and management integrity have been established there can then exist a realization and acceptance of the roles to be assumed by all participants in the industry.
Well-defined employee and management roles are the key ingredient to the successful operation of any hospitality property or store. Without clearly delineated job descriptions and management styles there is little hope for success in the hospitality industry. Sustainable hospitality service requires two key ingredients, namely, employee recognition and management in order to excel in service quality, performance, profit, and customer satisfaction. Through proper leadership and the recognition of emotional labor managers must learn how to manage and control the behaviors of their employees. The first step in accomplishing this task is to become an effective leader.
Leadership in any commercial service organization is predicated upon the style of leadership assumed by management. Only if there is a supportive and functional style of leadership with emotional labor be a recognized factor in optimal guest service. A good leader in the hospitality industry is one who is capable of being a visionary, an employee mentor, and a facilitator (Hoffman and Nelson, 2001). Whether their personal leadership style is one of being autocratic, democratic, or a balance in between, a leader in the hospitality industry is the one ultimately responsible for the success and image of the company for which he or she represents as well as for the emotional labor indices of the organization (Goodworth, 1988). In the hospitality area managers cannot fail to recognize that leadership is a pivotal social relationship between manager and employee wherein the manager ultimately influences the social knowledge, goal attainment, and actions of those employed. Conversely the manager must come to a full realization that social knowledge, action, and goal attainment is, on behalf of the employee, their emotional labor package. Leaders must acknowledge as well that they do not exist in a vacuum and that the establishment of goals that can be attained by employees is vital to the efficiency of the property. In the hospitality area the most profitable leadership style assumed by management is that of transformational leadership. Within this style the management recognized the skills of workers and focuses on the employees' values, needs, self-esteem and expectations by using motivation as an employee goal attainment stimulus. Herein as well the hospitality manager focuses on increasing the employees' work goals through elevating the needs of the employee and showing the employee how to go beyond what is expected. This style is almost charismatic in aligning the employee with management on a level of shared responsibility and shared interpretive emotional perceptions. For management to be charismatic in their transformation leadership style, thus accepting employee emotional labor skills, there must exist what is called image building (Bass, 1990). According to Bass when a manager exudes competence in the self there is increased competence in the employee and this will then secure managements appreciation of the emotional labor factor of those employees he manages. Contained within the manager image must also be a sense of humility. Only with an unassuming nature can a hospitality manager learn to value the worth of those employees under him or her. Further, humility in the leader permits the manager to truly understand, accept, and value the people he or he serves; i.e., the employee. Yet, at the same time the hospitality leader must posses enough self-belief so as not to be wrongly influenced by employees. All-in-all, the hospitality manager must move from beyond the comfort zone of do as I say move forward toward the recognition that employees are only as productive as set forth by the style of the manager.
Emphasis on management is not the only criteria for the acceptance of emotional labor skill enhancement. The employees themselves have a heavy responsibility when it comes to having the skill valued by the hospitality manager. Unless there is collaboration between manager and employee there will be no recognition of the skills of emotional labor. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the employee to present to the hospitality manager a strong work ethic as well as those characteristics embodying competence. Competence in the hospitality arena is in serving guests and can only be maximized if the management has taken the time to hone the employees' service skills. The skills to which reference is being can only be brought about through the effective use of training via management. Training of hospitality employees is sustainable when the training program is goal oriented and includes change, facilitation, assessment and evaluation of emotional labor shill management. To effectively implement such a program the management must ensure that the training program exudes commitment, motivation, leadership, creativity, and effective programming. In doing…