Emotional authenticity for Hochschild and beyond

In Chapter 4 I pointed out that most contemporary researchers, both philosophical and empirical, conceptualize authenticity in emotions in terms of sincerity and spontaneity. An authentic or genuine emotion is the subject's actual psychological state, and it is expressed sincerely, without suppression, inflation, or other modification of the underlying emotional state. Sincerity associates with the lack of emotional dissonance: there is no incongruence between the felt and the expressed emotion.

A sincere emotion can be either spontaneous or managed; the main thing is that it is a real emotion, not an empty expression. All spontaneous emotions are sincere, but the opposite is not true, because some actual emotions emerge through management that contributes to the formation of the emotion. When this happens, there is no emotional dissonance, because the expression and the experience are consistent with each other. However, the problem with successful emotion management is that emotional dissonance can be suppressed had the subject not felt the way he or she does without management, or if "to manage feeling is to actively try to change a preexisting emotional state", as Hochschild (2003, p. 229) believes. This is the reason why Hochschild thinks that deep acting, by suppressing spontaneous emotions, leads to estrangement from one's 'real' or authentic self even if it does not involve surface acting, which is the paragon of emotional inauthenticity.

Researchers have widely embraced Hochschild's worry about the inescapability of inauthenticity in emotional labour. The idea that emotional labour involves faking in either bad or good faith (Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987) implies that authentic emotions are those that are not faked or acted: the spontaneous and sincere ones. In the studies where job-related emotional inauthenticity has been measured, it has been operationalised with questions about faking emotions in a work role, on the one hand, and with questions about experiences of inauthenticity or emotional dissonance, on the other hand. Thus, Erickson and Wharton (1997, p. 197), asked their respondents, how often they "had felt (a) that they could not be themselves while at work and (b) that they had to fake how they really felt at work". Erickson and Ritter (2001) added questions on emotional hardening and numbness to their scale of inauthenticity, but questions on faking and emotional dissonance still constituted the core of their inventory. In a like manner, Ashforth and Tomiuk defined their notion of surface authenticity by the lack of emotional dissonance. Their deep authenticity is a different kind of notion, because it allows emotional dissonance. Yet, insofar as deep authenticity involves faking in good faith, the paradigm of authenticity is surface authenticity, which is free from faking and emotional dissonance.

The most important reason for the wide acceptance of the sincerity view of emotional authenticity, however, associates with the conceptualisation and operationalisation of emotional labour itself. For insofar as emotional labour is defined, at least in part, in terms of emotional dissonance, the notion of emotional inauthenticity is built into emotional labour as emotional dissonance and inauthenticity are defined interchangeably. This is the case with most theories of emotional labour including Hochschild's. Thus, Morris and Feldman (1996) propose that emotional labour consists of four dimensions: frequency of interactions, attentive-ness, variety of emotions required to be expressed, and emotional dissonance - a mismatch between genuinely felt and organisationally required emotions. Grandey (2000), in turn, identifies emotional labour in terms of deep and surface acting. Abraham (2000, pp. 229-30) argues that emotional dissonance is "a facet rather than a consequence of emotional labour". Some researchers have proposed even more inclusive definitions of emotional labour in terms of emotional dissonance. For instance, Kruml & Geddes (2000) suggest that the two dimensions of emotional labour are emotive effort and emotive dissonance. Therefore, even if several researchers have emphasised the need to move on from Hochschild, their conceptualisation of emotional labour partly in terms of emotional dissonance, which is used as the measure of emotional inauthenticity, has kept them from making progress towards solving the paradox of authentic emotion management at work. Fortunately, Hochschild herself provides cues to solving this paradox.

In some passages of The Managed Heart, Hochschild writes as if the authentic heart were an unmanaged one, 'natural' and spontaneous. Thus, she observes that "the value placed on authentic or 'natural' feeling has increased dramatically with the full emergence of its opposite - the managed heart" (Hochschild, 2003, p. 190). However, there are reasons for putting 'natural' within quotation marks here, for as a social constructionist, Hochschild does not believe that there are natural emotions in social life. All human emotions are influenced by social and cultural interpretations and norms, including feeling rules. These rules guide emotion management both in our private and public lives by setting criteria for the appropriateness of emotion in particular situations and roles.

From this perspective, the main problem is not emotion management itself, but who, ultimately, manages our emotions: we ourselves as autonomous individuals and as members of commitment-based groups, or some external authority through its feeling and display rules that we are required to follow at the risk of organisational sanctions. At stake here are the origin and the purpose of those rules that guide our emotion management. In private life, feeling rules are part of the subject's internalised social fabric and negotiable with other members of one's community, and emotion management serves interpersonal gift exchange, which "has as its ostensible purpose the welfare and pleasure of the people involved. [However], when this emotional system is thrust into a commercial setting, it is transmuted. A profit motive is slipped in under acts of emotion management, under the rules that govern them, under the gift exchange." (Hochschild, 2003, p. 119). Hochschild admits that this transmutation is "a delicate achievement and potentially an important and beneficial one" (ibid.). Yet she believes that even if the transmutation succeeds, there is a cost to be paid that outweighs the benefits: diminished control over the guidelines of one's work, acceptance of uneven rules of social exchange, and exposure to the detrimental consequences of emotional labour; ultimately, fragmentation of one's self.

The main criticism against Hochschild has focused on her way of using the dichotomies between a true and false self and between a private and public self interchangeably. Tracy and Trethewey (2005, p. 174) remark that "this point of view presumes that emotion is more authentic and pristine before it enters the realm of organizations, where it is 'transmuted' and thus 'processed, standardised' for organisational ends". On the one hand, Hochschild suggests that if we are able to identify with our work roles without being fused with them, it may be possible to reconcile the public self and the private self without feeling inauthentic. Yet on the other hand, she assumes that the fact that emotional labour is paid for entails it always being commercialised and motivated by profit. However, this assumption appears to be false for there are several forms of emotion management in the workplace that do not involve a profit motive. Indeed, Bolton (2005) argues that Hochschild overemphasised the divide between public and private emotion management by using the terms 'public' and 'commercial' interchangeably, thus creating an oversimplified dichotomy. She observes that for Hochschild, "there is no distinction between emotion management as part of the capitalist labour process, emotion management due to professional norms of conduct, or emotion management during normal social interaction in the workplace" (Bolton, 2005, p. 63). By introducing these distinctions between different types of emotion management, we can make room for authentic emotion management at the workplace. But does this typology still allow authentic emotion management in a professional role?

 
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