The emotional labor of professionalism

Seth Godin in his book This is Marketing advances the idea that a professional puts aside their authenticity using emotional labor to do a job that is useful to others.

Emotional labor, he writes, is “The work of doing what we don’t necessarily feel like doing, the work of being a professional, the work of engaging with others in a way that leads to the best long-term outcome.”

He suggests people don’t care about the bad day you’re having or the details about your personal life, and if you have a job that allows you to be your most honest self, you’re just an amateur with a good gig.

It makes sense. As a professional, you have a duty to perform the work you’ve promised, and work does tend to be utilitarian or impersonal transactions.

Notwithstanding the idea’s commonsensicalness, it’s dangerous.

Human beings are not services or products to be simply useful in a society of kind of accepted systems of thinking.

Sure, you do your job. But we are more than institutions.

We are people, with complex personalities, each trying to find our way along these made up systems that we kind of agree on, each with a social responsibility to our communities – to our neighbors, and cashiers, and the kids we hire to mow our lawns.

You have a duty to do your part in creating an accepting, caring, appreciative, and helpful world.

The kind of impersonality that has become accepted during the rise of industrialism is a large contributor to the many problems we see in the world – the abundance of mental health issues, the lack of fairness in our democratic processes, and increasing inequities.

You are more than just a person doing your job. You are a person, who is busy and trying to survive in a hypercompetitive environment.

But understand this: If you abandon good-naturedness, empathy, and the love necessary to create a better world, you might be more productive, but you have failed the next generation because you’ve created one more small divide in the common humanity that unites us.