Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Emotional Labour Essay

This report investigates the shop manners and training offered to the floor sales staff at Next compared to that of those who work in the stock room. I would like to know how each environment affects the workers emotions. I think it’s an important question to ask because the people that work on the shop floor are constantly in contact with customers. It could be said that those that work in the stock room are not part of the stage setting and are more like the stage crew who work behind the scenes. I think it is important then to first address what emotion is. â€Å"Emotion theory is centred on the relationship of the person and its environment† (Lazarus, 1991 p40). This has implications on the question that I am posing as the stockroom workers interact in a different environment to their colleagues on the shop floor. There are two fundamental viewpoints to emotion the organismic and interactionalist viewpoint. The organismic model developing from the work of Charles Darwin, William James and early Sigmund Freud, â€Å"Defines emotion mainly as a biological process. For Freud emotion affect is libidinal discharge, for Darwin it’s instinct and for James it’s the perception of a psychological process† (Hochschild, 1983 p205) This leads organismic theorists to believe that there is a basic similarity of emotion across categories of people (Hochschild, 1983). The organismic model brings us to an elicitation-expression model (Hochschild, 1983) Interactionists believe emotion always involves a biological component but adds more points to social factors, which are present before, after and during the experience of emotion. For example why does a customer become violent when refused a refund, what in their cultural environment constitutes their response? If we conceptualise emotion as instinctive we will ignore questions about social entry. (Hochschild, 1983) â€Å"Emotions are experienced by individuals and through intention or inadvertent communication may be deduced by others who are observing†. (Lazarus, 1991 p40) Emotions can be a valuable source of information in determining how people are getting along. However, surface acting can disguise true emotion so you must be wary when reading emotions. â€Å"Society and biological inheritance creates a pattern of behaviour that shape emotion and expressions of the individual† (Lazarus, 1991 p40). I believe this statement relates to the way that shop assistants and customers are expected to behave. As you will see the training offered to the sales staff shows members of the work force how to act in a socially excepted way which is common practice in all chain stores. In a shopping environment how other people feel is a huge factor as to whether they buy something or not. Sales staff to some extent can influence this. I believe that for a customer to feel ‘at home’ in a shop the sales staff need to be friendly and approachable whereby you feel even if you haven’t bought any thing this time you are welcome back again. I think that this is the key to the success of stores like Next and Marks and Spencer’s where staffs have the correct shop manners to keep the customers coming back. From interviews undertaken with staff at Next I have uncovered strict guidelines in training which each new member of staff has to go through. (I will discuss this and whether I think it is appropriate later.) Drawing on my own experience, I have worked in what you would call a ‘downmarket’ clothes store and no training of shop manners was offered to me. It was my first proper job so I did feel as if I was being thrown in at the deep end. However, the shop was very small and my C.V. demonstrated that I had good people skills as I had worked on a market stall at the weekends and holidays. I assume that management didn’t feel the need to train me in what they thought should be the obvious way to behave towards customers. After speaking to senior sales staff at next and sponsors, these are longer standing members of staff who train new staff using the guidelines (see Appendix), I have gathered that management wish the customer to feel that they are the most important thing and that their shopping experience is being made easier by the staff. Next seem to have thought out its training program very clearly and assigns specific amounts of time to each activity. This helps to give the impression that training is viewed as an important part of the job. I think that Next places emphasis on its training as it is a chain store and it often directs customers to local stores if the stock isn’t available at the branch at which they are visiting, this calls for a sense of conformity between stores. I evaluated the training sessions which, are appropriate to the questions I am asking, by interviewing staff on how appropriate each session is, how achievable are the actions set out and how they affect emotions. The overall reaction that I had from staff was that they felt the training to be very obvious and many sponsors admitted to skipping through the training as quickly as possible because of this fact. Sponsors felt that by training staff with this obvious manner of behaviour was assuming that the trainee was, when prompted by myself, emotionally incapable of selecting the correct emotions for the customer situation. Training session 1 (Appendix Shop Manners). The trainee is told to be aware and not to get tied down in tasks when I asked staff about the reality of this they said they found it very annoying to be approached by customers when doing a job and often resented customers for ‘bothering’ them. However, this is where surface acting comes into play the employee hides what they feel and pretends what they don’t (Hochschild, 1983). The action is in the body language, for example the put on smile and sweet voice as it is for the people observed by Erving Goffman (cited in Hochschild, 1983 p35). The employee has to think back to their training to pick the right body language. A typical scenario: Now interrupted from a task possibly holding a huge pile of stock in their hand the employees are given a strict formula to follow, eye contact, a smile, appropriate greeting and to be friendly and sincere. This is a hard task when obviously it is inappropriate for the customer to target them and often there is another member of staff nearby doing nothing. However, the surface acting must continue as the corporate motto of â€Å"The customer always comes first† is relayed in your mind, plus I don’t want to lose my job if they complain to head office. Company control also works along who fears whom. As with flight attendants the fear hierarchy works indirectly through customers complaining, to head office (Hochschild, 1983). This type of scenario links with the question posed by Hochschild (1983 p89) that when feelings are set by management and where workers have weaker rights to courtesy then consumers do, when deep and surface acting are forms of labour to be sold what happens to the way a person relates to her feelings or to her face? Employees said that when they were the customers they were more aware of the shop assistants emotions and tried to be more courteous. However, they may just feel as though they do this because they wish that people would do this for them. I do believe that this statement does have some truth but surely when the stage setting is different, when they are the customer and not the ‘server’ they assume the actions of the customer. As on the stage as in life the person is the locus of the acting process. But when an institution is involved various acting elements are taken away from the individual and replaced by institutional mechanisms. In this case the fact that the customer comes first. â€Å"The locus of acting, of emotional management, moves to the level of the institution†. (Hochschild 1983 p49) The people are arranged according to institutional custom and the workers surface act in institutionally approved ways. Training Session 2 (Appendix In-Store Security) This training session makes shop assistants conscious of the need to be aware and the need for acknowledgement of the customers. You can use your training of greeting the customer in a functional way, to help reduce the comfort of shoplifters who are always aware of who is watching them. Senior staff said that it gets easier to spot thieves with practice; you get to learn their tricks of diverting your attention. Even though you have to be suspicious of certain customers you must always remember your training and be polite even if you feel that they are up to no good. Training Session 3 (Appendix Stockroom) As you can see none of the training here is connected to personal conduct, it doesn’t attempt to tell you how to act where as the shop floor assistants are told to be friendly, sincere, polite, confident and have a smile. They are even told that conversations must be work related. When questioned on the reality of this last statement floor staff said they do have non-work related conversations but they are of a toned down nature to the way they would speak in private. When I asked the stockroom workers about their conversations they said that if they were in a situation to have a conversation it would be more animated then if having it on the shop floor as they are not ‘in public’. Training Session 12 (Appendix Till Service) Customer interaction is crucial at the till point. Again the trainee is told how to act, to be sincere and polite. I asked staff how easy it was to do this. A typical scenario: It’s a very busy Saturday and all the tills are in operation when greeted by the customer with comments such as â€Å"I have been waiting ever such a long time, you know† and the like, it is difficult to be sincere and polite as there is nothing the staff can do to make the queue go any quicker. The staff member surface acts with her painted on smile and polite apologies. In the training suggestions of possible conversation are complimenting customers on their choice of purchase. Till operators said they tended to deep act in this case, only saying it if they meant it. Deep acting is a natural result of working on feeling expression is spontaneous (Hochschild 1983). As the Russian director Constantin Stanivlaski puts it a real feeling that has been self-induced (cited in Hochschild 1983 p35). The refund and exchange policy is an important part of training because it is the most likely time for customer conflict. The staff member is instructed to treat the customer in the same way as they would if they were making a purchase, this is easy if the customer has a receipt or is a well-known customer. But if the customer doesn’t have a receipt it makes it harder in some cases because you have the suspicion that the customer may have stolen the garment. In this situation the staff member is advised that the best thing to do is get a manager. As formal rules that prop up an institution set limits to the emotional possibilities that staff have to feel (Hochschild 1983). The point that demonstrates this is the manager gets paid more then a shop assistant because their pay package covers them for the emotional insults, which they may receive from refusing to give a customer a refund. I asked the managers how they dealt with abusive behaviour from customers. Managers gain the experience for dealing with inconvenient customers and they assured me that it gets easier as time goes on. â€Å"You have to detach what you are feeling from the situation and not let your own anger, or in some extreme cases fear get in the way†. (Appendix Initial Training Requirement Chart) This gives a summary of all the training offered to the different roles at Next. As you can see all staff members that are present on the shop floor, for any point of their shift, the number one training session is shop manners. This is not part of the stockroom workers training. (Appendix Sponsors Guidelines- 6.Performance Assessment Standards) This table demonstrates that all staff working on floor cover, fitting room, till service or replenishment are those that could possibly come into contact with customers. It demonstrates that shop floor staff members are assessed on their ability to smile and make eye contact with the customer and to be aware of shoppers. Stockroom staff members, on the other hand, are assessed solely on their physical, rather then any emotional objectives. Are our feelings really our own? From the research obtained in this report it is clear to see that the staff working on the shop floor are shown ‘how to act’ where as in the stock room it’s much more ‘natural emotion’. Institutional practice shapes the way in which shop floor workers are expected to behave. What makes some individuals prefer to work in the stock room compared to the shop floor? I asked the stockroom workers why they liked to work in the stockroom. I received comments such as. â€Å"You can be more yourself as you don’t have to work in uniform†. I think that management enforce a strict smart dress policy on shop floor workers to help them get into the role, which they have to play; it is part of the act. â€Å"In the stockroom you don’t have to interact with customers†. Some of the stockroom staff said the horror stories they have heard about customers puts them off working on the shop floor. As customers seem to be oblivious to the feelings of shop floor workers and assume that they are there just to serve them. â€Å"The stockroom has quite a different atmosphere to the shop floor it is more relaxed, you often get shop floor sales staff coming in for a ‘break’ from the hustle and bustle of the shop floor†. The stockroom workers said that on many occasions sales staff come in and tell them about incidents with customers that have just happened. This helps the member of staff to calm down, as the stockroom member often is able to bring them to ‘reality’ and point out that it is only a customer and not to get wound up. In the surroundings of the back office the sales floor worker is able to put the situation in context of life and go back to the ‘act’ moments later. Does personality have something to do with whether you like working in the stockroom or the shop floor? From observation and asking the floor staff it seems to me that the quieter people work in the stock room. When I questioned staff members on why they enjoyed working in the stock room I deduced they don’t feel the need to be on the stage acting, to them it is false they would rather be left to their own devices. I asked the floor staff whether they minded working in the stockroom as sometimes staff shortages calls for this. They said they didn’t mind but preferred the interaction and liveliness of the shop floor this corresponds with previous research, which shows emotional labourers like contact with the customer. Even though customers can be very unpleasant. (MG2076 starter pack: The Survey). Sales floor staff said they wished they could work in the stockroom on days when they were feeling ‘under the weather’ as the need to act in the corporate superficial way was much harder because their true emotions were harder to suppress. On days when everything is going well staff said it was a pleasure to help customers that are appreciative of their service but a customer who feels it is their right to be served can bring an end to that. This suggests that workers feelings are not their own and shop assistants surface act from day to day. I would like to investigate status and gender differences to see whether men or women are better equipped at working in either environment. â€Å"Is emotion work as important for men as it is for women?† (Hochschild, 1983 p 162) Hochschild believes it is not. Due to firstly lacking other resources women make a resource out of feeling. Secondly, each gender is called on to do different kinds of work, which Hochschild believes to be down to â€Å"different childhood training of the heart that is given to girls and boys† (Hochschild, 1983 p163). I think this gender separation at work is becoming less apparent as equal rights laws are being enforced and changing attitudes of society. At Next there is equality in the work place with men and women being treated equally with both being given the same responsibility. Thirdly, â€Å"the general subordination of women† leaves them more open to abuse. For example, a customer was being very rude to the floor manager on childrensware due to the fact that she refused to give the man a refund, because the garment had obviously been worn. The customer became very rude and abusive, which he thought would give him some hold over the woman. The female manager was about to give in to the customer when the shop manager, a man, noticed the disturbance and came over to assist his colleague. He refused to give the man a refund. I believe that as a man the shop manager saw the customer as a mere man and stood by the initial reaction of the female manager. The customer more intimidated by the act of the shop manager gave in very quickly and left the shop threatening â€Å"I will let head office know about this.† The manager was not browbeaten by this comment, as he knew the customer didn’t have a leg to stand on. This situation also lends itself to the fact that † a different proportion of the managed heart is enlisted for commercial use.† (Hochschild, 1983 p163-164) Women make defensive use of their beauty, charm and relational skills, which due to commercial exploitation can lead them to become estranged from these capacities. For male workers it is more their ability to wield anger and make threats that is used by the company and so this the capacity which they are likely to feel estranged from. (Hochschild 1983) Conclusion Each environment has an impact on the workers emotions. The sales floor is where surface acting takes place throughout most of the working day. The stockroom is a place where deep acting is given more of a chance to occur due to the fact that the company don’t suppose emotions upon its workers here. I think the training offered by Next is appropriate as it is what is institutionally expected by society. It is achievable by staff to act this way, as this is what they are getting paid to do. I think it does affect workers emotions being trained how to act because it must be hard to switch off at the end of the day. Eventually it must become instinctive to act in a socially expected way and it must become harder for staff members to express their true emotions when not at work.    Bibliography * Hochschild, A. R. (1983) The Managed Heart; the commercialisation of human feeling California: University of California Press. * Lazarus, R. S. (1994) Emotion and Adaptation New York: Oxford University Press * MG2076s Starter Pack MG 2076 Louise Goldstein

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