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“It Comes With the Territory”: A Fluoroscopy of Emotional Labor

Rebecca Dickason * (University of Rennes, France)

Emotion in Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-83797-251-7, eISBN: 978-1-83797-250-0

Publication date: 29 January 2024



While the main emotional labor strategies are well-documented, the manner in which professionals navigate emotional rules within the workplace and effectively perform emotional labor is less understood. With this contribution, I aim to unveil “the good, the bad and the ugly” of emotional labor as a dynamic theatrical performance.


Focusing on three geriatric long-term care units within a French public hospital, this qualitative study relies on two sets of data (observation and interviews). Deeply rooted within the field of study, the chosen methodological approach substantializes the subtle hues of the emotional experience at work and targets resonance rather than generalization.


Using the theatrical metaphor, this research underlines the role of space in the practice of emotional labor in a unique way. It identifies the main emotionalized zones or emotional regions (front, back, transitional, mixed) and details their characteristics, before unearthing the nonlinearity and polyphonic quality of emotional labor performance and the versatility needed to that effect. Indeed, this research shows how health-care professionals juggle with the specificities of each region, as well as how space generates both constraints and resources. By combining static and dynamic prisms, diverse instantiations of hybridity and spatial in-betweens, anchored in liminality and trajectories, are revealed.


This research adds to the current body of literature on the concept of emotional labor by shedding light on its highly dynamic and interactional nature, revealing different levels of porosity between emotional regions and how the characteristics of each type of area can taint others and increase/decrease the occupational health costs of emotional labor. The study also raises questions about the interplay of emotional labor performance with the level of humanization/dehumanization of elderly people. Given the global demographics about an aging population, this gives food for thought at a social level.



Dickason, R. (2024), "“It Comes With the Territory”: A Fluoroscopy of Emotional Labor", Ashkanasy, N.M., Troth, A.C. and Humphrey, R.H. (Ed.) Emotion in Organizations (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 179-218.



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