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Whether the Requirement for Emotional Labour in Hospitality and Tourism Is Ethical Essay

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Paper type: Essay

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The endeavour of this essay is to critically evaluate whether the use of emotional labour within the hospitality and tourism industry is ethical or not. The discussion in this essay will be brought to light by firstly defining what ethics are and the various approaches surrounding it based on diverse perspectives. Subsequently, emotional labour would be identified along with arguments and clear examples from service operations which would be further exemplified to support the focal arguments.

The essay will conclude with evaluation of key opinions disclosed in the essay to examine whether emotional labour in the hospitality and tourism work is moral.

Leopold, Harris and Watson(2005,p89) define ethics to be similar as ‘morals’. ‘The words ethics and morals have similar etymological roots – ethics has its origin in ancient Greek in the word ethikos meaning authority of custom and tradition, while ‘moral is derived from the Latin word mos, which also refers to power linked to tradition and custom.

When it comes to business, Manna and Chakraborti(2010) justify that work ethics in today’s world does not just deal with ethical behaviour of an employee, but also ethical behaviour of an employer where, along with earning profits and expecting employees to work towards achieving company goals, the employer has the responsibility to include principles of care while dealing with the employee.

Different cultures see ethics differently. Fisher and Lovell(2006) describe that different countries have dissimilar customary principles opposed to what theorists think is right or wrong.

For instance in India, people in the corporate and political world find it fair to promote relatives or make one’s son hold key positions in the company. Selection of a candidate is more likely if he is a family member than someone higher in merit(Newsflavor,2011). A poll conducted by Inc. com revealed that 48% of people believed that being the boss’s son was the secret to getting ahead in the company, whereas only a quarter believed that success comes from proving your merit(Inc. om,2011). Ferrell et al(2010) emphasize the importance of business ethics and regardless of what an individual believes about a particular action, whether they believe it is ethical or not, that judgement directly effects the organization’s ability to achieve its goals. For instance, Freeman et al(2004,p. 364) justify that the stakeholder theory is when an ‘economic value is created by people who voluntarily come together and cooperate to improve everyone’s circumstances’.

This approach gives businesses more resources and potential to endow with valuable insight as on one hand it tries to deal with a highly complex business environment and on the other hand its tries to please the attention of a large number of constituencies instead of merely making profits(Freeman,2010). However Friedman(1970) cited in Fisher and Lovell(2006,p311) suggests a threefold neo-liberal approach in which ‘the only social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits, and not indulge in social interventions’.

He argued that a corporation is an artificial person and has artificial responsibilities but only people working in that business are responsible for their deeds as long as they do not exceed the law(Friedman,1970 cited in Zimmerli et al 2007). It can be justified that many businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry find it ethical to use emotional labour. As per Hochschild(2003), organizations make employees impair and manage their private feelings to socially contrive and transform into emotional labour for a wage.

Emotional labour according to Hochschild(1983) cited in D’Annunzio-Green, Maxwell and Watson(2002, p228) is ‘the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display’. It ‘requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces a proper state of mind in others. ’ The concept of emotional labour is not just confined to a workplace, but invades every aspect of one’s life. It can be justified why the concept of emotional labour has meticulous significance to service operations in this industry.

Ashforth and Humphrey(1993) mention how front-line service personnel are a significant part of the organization’s customer crossing point and thus, represent the organization to its customers. Face to face service encounters have a dynamic and emergent quality and are sometimes intangible in nature as customers need to evaluate the quality of service they receive. Taylor(1996) cited in Wood and Brotherton(2002, p. 265) emphasize on how different cultural groups find it appropriate to deal with customers.

A study done on the hotel service in Crete Warshaw depicts how employees’ ‘happy face’ approach can reflect a remnant of ancient hospitality and therefore it is essential for some companies to follow societal norms during service encounters as these norms are apparent through expectations of a cust omer(Zeithaml et al, 1989). In order for customers to decide what constitutes good service, the service agents are often performing clear roles ‘on stage’ (Ashforth and Humphrey,1993, p. 1). ‘Feeling rules’ also known as ‘display rules’ helps tservice employees identify what appropriate behaviour is and what emotions should be expressed during their service encounters(Hochschild cited in Ashford and Humphrey,1993, p. 91). For example, when a customer is unhappy, he/she can be very fractious which can upset the service employee. In most situations, the employee is calm and remains polite with the customer.

This is when the form of ‘self control’ comes into practice, which according to Deci and Ryan(1987) cited in Frisk and Stenier(2005) is a self regulated behaviour which is conducted by an expression of oneself, normally caused by pressure and environmental forces where the employee has to suppress negative emotions and evoke positive emotions. Feeling the rules of the company in this situation is why the employee must be polite. Diefendorff and Gosserand,2003 cited in De Cremer(2007) argue that an employee must engage in surface acting to meet their job requirements.

Gardener et al cited in Humphrey(2008) mention that surface acting engages intentional emotion exhibition intended to deceive others. Ashford and Humphrey(1993,p92) suggest that ‘it involves stimulating emotions that are not actually felt, which is accompanied by careful presentation of verbal and non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures and voice tones. ’ This emotion for some people is moral such as for a theatre actor performing on stage as this is something they enjoy doing for a livelihood(Grandey,2003). For instance, a flight attendant carefully uses surface acting to display an emotion of calmness on a long haul flight.

The attendant is most likely to be tired and anxious during the flight, but the displayed emotion of composure depicts that the displayed emotion differs from the felt emotion(Ashford and Humphery,1993) This directly relates to the fact that some service employees adapt well to the work environment and are getting job satisfaction from this work. Alongside, some employees also use another aspect of emotional labour,deep acting to meet their career prospects which according to Hochschild(1983) cited in Ashforth and Humphery(1993,p93) is when ‘one attempts to actually experience or feel the emotions that one wishes to display.

As deep acting focuses directly on an employee’s inner feelings, it prevents the employee in undergoing much behavioural change during service delivery. Alongside, a customer can get more pleased with the service as this form of emotional labour can come across as consistent with strong concerns for the customer(Hochschild,1983 cited in Ashforth and Humphery,1993). A tourist information employee cited in Ashwood et al(2002) mentions that ‘it’s a part of human interaction, part of life. Leung et al(2011) mention that an individual’s compliance to the workforce is highly significant because an employee with higher adaptability to his work will be more likely to incorporate better knowledge and thereby transfer it to colleagues and customers. Anderson et al(2002) justify that a person’s personal attributes such as his soft and hard skills play an important role in his outcome towards the service job.

For instance, a worker in tourist information reckons that his listening skills diversified with his patience help him deliver his best and provide 100% customer satisfaction(Anderson et al,2002). Therefore it can be seen that use of emotional labour in many instances can improve task effectiveness. To the contrary, there are many organizations in the hospitality and tourism industry that find it unethical to use emotional labour at work. Fineman cited in D’Annunzio-Green et al(2002,p. 230) describes that emotional labour ‘can be fun;an exquisite drama or stressful and alienating’.

Kim(2008) mentions that on one hand, service agents using an optimistic emotional expression can have a favourable effect on customer retention and satisfaction, but on the other hand it can be detrimental for service providers both psychologically and physically. Surface acting, has been criticized by Humphery(2008)on the fact that employees does not demonstrate their true feelings and in many cases it is not very effective in generating desired impressions(Beal et al,2006 cited in Humphery,2008). Erickson and Wharton(1997) cited in Derry et al(2002,p. 72) argue that ‘employees are expected to appear happy, nice and glad to serve the customer, in spite of any private misgivings or any differences they may have’ in their personal lives. For instance, a manager in a hospitality firm cited in Anderson et al(2002) mentions that surface acting ‘can be a bad thing, it depends as to what level. If there’s falseness, you can see falseness’. Expecting employees to display emotions to comply with norms and standards of the organization just to fulfil the ‘desired state of mind’ in the customer can be seen an unethical by many(Derry et al,p472).

In addition, Gardner and Martinko(1988) cited in Humphery(2008) argue that surface acting can be convoyed with unwanted secondary impressions that employees are dishonest and conceivably manipulative as Zerbe et al(2006) point out that when an employee engages in surface acting, a customer may question the employee’s motivation to provide that service as the employee is acting according to his script without a real apprehension for the customer’s requirements.

This can lead to unfavourable impressions from customer service point of view. Brotheridge and Grandey,(2002) cited in Kim(2008) argue that such emotional work in today’s industry cause major occupational stress and burnout. Ashforth and Humphery(1993) suggest that an exhausted worker, in spite of his best effort is unable to deliver and give any more of himself. A study of interviewing staff working for pubs in the UK done by Sandiford and Seymour(2002) cited in Kim(2008) demonstrated evidence of emotional labour causing job stress.

It was found that emotions generated at work were normally carried outside work which in the longer run influenced the worker’s private life. It has also been noticed, when an employee exercises deep acting in his job, it can be particularly emotional demanding as it involves the employee to have the ability of changing his ‘emotional demeanour’ instantly depending on type of customers they deal with(Hartel et al,2005,p51). Alongside, Hochschild(1983) cited in (2003,p. 9) mentions that employees who are modifying their internal state on a day to day basis along with depletion of cognitive and energy resources can lead to ‘alienation from oneself’ as they might think why is he ‘selling feelings for a wage’. For example, although a flight attendant loves her job, when she was asked by a customer why she wasn’t smiling, the attendant in return passed the role back to the customer and asked him ‘to smile and telling him to “freeze” and hold that for fifteen hours’(Hochschild,1983 cited in Seymour and Sandiford,2002,p. 56).

Therefore, it can be noticed that continuous acting of emotional expressions produces emotional dissonance which according to Salmela and Mayer(2009,p134) is the ‘incongruence between felt and organizationally required emotion, which impairs one’s sense of “true” self. Emotional exhaustion amongst employees who work for continuous hours can trigger them from coping from such exhaustion by opting strategies such as ‘absenteeism’(Firth and Britton,1989 cited in Derry et al(2002,p. 480) or ‘withdrawal of job’(Lee and Ashforth,1996 cited in Derry et al,2002,p. 80). One of the main rationale behind these causes is lack of adequate training provided by organizations in the service industry to their employees.

Lea and Hayes(2003) suggest that training for emotional labour goes deeper than just providing employees with scripts and expecting them to learn it but in the real world, there is lack of formal training provided to employees which actually helps them deal with emotional labour(Zerbe et al,2006). For instance, interviews with service workers cited in Ashwood et al (2002,p. 5) showed modest indication of less training provided to them which was valuable in managing the ‘emotional demands of the job’. Consequently, this relates patently that emotional labour can be seen as unethical according to some based on the above viewpoints. To summarize, whether emotional labour within the hospitality and tourism industry is ethical or not can be viewed from two perspectives. Emotional labour can be either healthy or unhealthy depending on how it is performed in an organization.

For some businesses it is ethical as employees can perform surface acting by smiling and being happy to sell the organization to customers. Whereas, it can be unethical for some, as emotional labour causes negative impacts such as emotional exhaustion and dissonance within the mind of the employee which in the longer run can be detrimental for the organization. It is therefore imperative for the employer to recruit a candidate that suits best for the job role and who has the capability to cope with the outcomes of emotional labour as a part of their profession.

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