Keywords: Female flight attendant, Emotional labour, Surface acting, Deep acting, Emotional display rules
Flight attendant has been assumed as an easy job with superior benefits and opportunities and naturally ideal for women to use their instinctive skills on this job, however, as this is not a normal nine to five occupation and flight attendants are working in an unusual working environment, academics have identified the hidden effects behind this job and defined flight attendant as a highly emotional demanding occupation.
In a competitive service industry, â€œcustomer is the kingâ€ (Hochschild, 1983, 86) has been stated as the core service concept. Especially in the airline industry, increasing of low cost airlines increased the competition, to differentiate products and services and satisfy passengersâ€™ expectation, flight attendant as the frontline worker play a key role to deliver standard and high quality of services to passengers. Accordingly, as frontline workers directly interact with customers on a daily basis, flight attendant also defined as emotional workers, which request to control and suppress their emotions at work (Korczynski, 2007; Hochschild, 1979) and it has been demonstrated that â€œthe more directly interaction with customers, the more frequent to engage emotional regulation and request higher emotional effort by employeesâ€ (Kinman, 2009, 121).
After Hochschild (1983) researched on female flight attendant and defined the concept of emotional labour as a commercialised emotion management process involves surface acting, which modifies facial and bodily emotion through faking, suppressing and altering real emotions and deep acting, which modifies individualâ€™s inner feelings to comply organisationâ€™s emotional display rules to express appropriate emotion to passengers in the airline industry, academics have increased awareness on female flight attendant and more studies have expanded Hochschildâ€™s thesis (Allen et al, 2014; Ashforth and Humphrey,1993; Cheung and Miu, 2015; Gabriel and Diefendorff, 2015; Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983; Hsu, 2012; Kinman, 2009; Lee et al, 2015; Lu and Liou, 2015; Magdalene, 2012; Peng, 2009; Preston, 2013; Smith and Lorentzon, 2005; Taylor and Moore, 2015). In general, many viewed that flight attendant have a strict emotional display rules stipulated to follow and flight attendants have direct interactions with passengers in long working hours which easily increase the emotional dissonance between personal and occupational emotion (Allen et al, 2014; Cheung and Miu, 2015; Gabriel and Diefendorff, 2015; Hochschild, 1983; Hsu, 2012; Lu and Liou, 2015; Lee et al, 2015; Magdalene, 2012), as a result, it is believed that emotional display rules are the driving force increase flight attendants engage emotional labour and more often apply surface acting to comply emotional display rules at work by suppressing of express personal emotions which increase negative impact on job satisfaction, wellbeing and performance. Arguably, some academics viewed that emotional labour enables to enhance job performance, acting as a coping strategy for flight attendant to distance from personal and occupational situation to protect themselves in high emotion demand situations and deep acting has a relevantly less negative impact on flight attendantsâ€™ well being (Goodwin et al, 2011; Judge et al, 2009; Magdalene, 2012; Smith and Lorentzon, 2005), however, it has been argued that emotional labour only benefits organisations to achieve its business objectives, as flight attendant emotions are restricted by emotional display rules, although flight attendants may perform well, they usually apply deep acting at work to survive in todayâ€™s job insecurity society (People Management, 2009).
When apply the concept and the thesis of emotional labour in the contemporary flight attendant workplace, an interview with a female flight attendant who has 4 years work experience and currently working at an international airline demonstrated that rather than emotional display rules, working environment and job satisfaction also impact the use of emotional labour. Although academics and literatures have justified flight attendants are more often experience emotional labour, the interviewee clarified that the use of emotional labour is not always negative to flight attendantâ€™s well being and how individual view and use of emotional labour is differ. Interviewee on this paper illustrated that she is satisfied with her job as this is her dream job and she understand ensure passengersâ€™ safety, provide a good standard of services, attending passengers and distance personal emotion at work is her job roles and responsibilities, although dealing with disruptive passengers is more likely to happen and fake emotion may exist in different situations on flight attendantâ€™s daily activities, when flight attendant has positive view of the airline and satisfy with the job, the pressure comes from passengers and the working environment can do nothing to degrade individualâ€™s performance and the interviewee has viewed emotional labour as a pushing factor to make herself feel more motivated on her job, these findings show that rather than comply emotional display rules, job satisfaction is the key force impacts how individual use emotional labour and how they perform. Additionally, as working under pressure has been illustrated as the nature of flight attendant workplace and previous studies have widely identified negative impact of surface acting, to maintain a healthy working environment to increase flight attendantsâ€™ job satisfaction, it is suggest that airlines should increase monitoring and communicate with flight attendants to show support and ensure flight attendants have the correct way to release their personal emotion.
Grandey, A. A. (2000) Emotion Regulation in the Workplace: A New Way to Conceptualize Emotional Labour, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5 (1) 95-110.
Hochschild, A. (1979) Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. American journal of sociology, 85 (3) 551-575.
Hochschild, A. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.