The case is about the enforced happiness of the employees of the Pret A Manger. Here, the employer demands those persons who have specific attributes and capability to appeal to the senses of the customers to attract them. Emotional labour or esthetic labour is considered to be one of the essential criteria for the selection of the interactive services employees in the retail industry. The appearance, a cordial smile, appropriate body proportion, attitude, and good voice with an accent are of great importance in the employees (Yee, Yeung and Cheng, 2008).
It presents an extreme case of emotional labour that the employees of Pret A Manger are made to practice while selling cheddar and tomato sandwich. Emotional labour is conceptualised as a practice that sabotages the rights of the employees.
Emotional labour is vital for the interactive services employees because when they engage themselves in expressing employer’s desired emotions while interacting with the customers, the customers are likely to acknowledge these emotions. However, by performing emotional labour for a long time, the employee is prone to suffer from fatigue and emotional exhaustion which can, in turn, lead to turnover. Retailers face a significant challenge of keeping their employees committed and satisfied with the organisation. It is seen that the commitment and satisfaction on the employee’s part increase their performance and decreases their turnover intentions. The survey by “US Department of Labor” shows that the turnover rates are above average and administrative and training costs are increasing which hinder the achievement of the maximum employee performance in the retail industry (Cho, Rutherford and Park, 2013).
Another impact of emotional labour in the retail industry that is mentioned in the given case study is that the females will be given preference for interactive services because of their expertise in managing emotions. It will result in the dominance of women in the service economy. Women show higher sensitivity and politeness in their speech. Their conversational style has been categorised as cooperative, unlike man whose conversational style has been classified as competitive, assertive and direct. These traits of female language play an important role in emotional labour. Moreover, unlike men, women are taught to conform and compromise for the happiness of the other from their childhood (CLAES, 1999).
Emotional labour will also promote the class-based change in the pattern of consumption. As the consumption of households of high-income toward luxuries is more than consumption of low-income households, the rich people will set the standard which will increase the consumer’s expectations (Aguiar and Bils, 2015). The organisation where employees engage themselves in emotional labour, like the Pret shops mentioned in the case, will make customers used to the fawning behaviour of the employees which in turn will make other stores, where prices are reasonable, to raise their standards and ask their employees for the emotional labour (Tsaur, Luoh and Syue, 2015).
In the given case, emotional labour is conceptualised as a tool for an organisation to creating its hegemony over the other similar institutions as Pret A Manger in the case has done over the shops in its vicinity without making the quality of the product (or food as in the case). It shows that rationality and emotions are interchangeable and are entwined together. Employees are trained to act with predictability to increase the efficiency and productivity of the organisation (Grandey and Gabriel, 2015).
At the beginning of the case, the author explains the behaviour of the woman employee at Pert A Manger is called “emotional labour” because she suppresses her real feelings and attempts to fulfil the emotional expectations of the customers, not because she creates a positive feeling in the customer’s heart. Two types of emotional labour are mentioned in the case; the suppression of one’s feeling that is called “surface acting,” and changing inner feelings to costumer-desired feelings which are called “deep acting.” The phenomenon of emotional is widespread and is central to the services where employees interact with the customers. It is considered to be a part of the job (Domagalski, 1999).
The author refers to an essay “Short Cuts for the London Review of Books” by a British journalist Paul Myerscough in which he called emotional labour exercised by Pret’s employees as “affective labour” which is carried out to excite emotions in the customers’ heart by being a hypocrite (Myerscough, 2013).
The emotional labour is conceptualised as a hard practice which demands not only the body and mind but also the souls of the employees. This method dramatically undermines the rights of the employees. They can get fired for just being “unhappy” as an employee got fired because he wanted to start a union which means that their thoughts are not theirs. They are hired not just to earn money but also to entertain the customers.
The policy of emotional labour is strictly enforced as if it is a policy in German security service. The organisation sends its agent once a month to check whether the emotional labour is being efficiently practised and the report of this agent depends on the behaviour of just that person with whom he interacts.
Emotional labour to be practised at the places like hospitals, funerals and day care centres, where there are identifiable emotional needs, is justifiable but in the shops, like Pret, whose sole purpose is to satisfy thirst and hunger of the customers, emotional labour is needless.
The conceptualisation of emotional labour in the given case is a little bit extreme. The author is appeared to be biased against Pret A Manger but author’s stance that there is no need for the person who sells burgers and sandwiches to be uselessly charming and “to create a sense of fun” is right.
Aguiar, M. and Bils, M., 2015. Has consumption inequality mirrored income inequality?. American Economic Review, 105(9), pp.2725-56.
Cho, Y.N., Rutherford, B.N. and Park, J., 2013. The impact of emotional labour in a retail environment. Journal of Business Research, 66(5), pp.670-677.
CLAES, M.T., 1999. Women, men and management styles. International Labour Review, 138(4), pp.431-446.
Domagalski, T.A., 1999. Emotion in organizations: Main currents. Human relations, 52(6), pp.833-852.
Grandey, A.A. and Gabriel, A.S., 2015. Emotional labour at a crossroads: Where do we go from here?.
Myerscough, P., 2013. Short Cuts. London Review of Books [Online] vol. 35 no. 1 p. 25. Available from https://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n01/paul-myerscough/short-cuts[Accessed 4 February 2018].
Tsaur, S.H., Luoh, H.F. and Syue, S.S., 2015. Positive emotions and behavioral intentions of customers in full-service restaurants: Does aesthetic labour matter?. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 51, pp.115-126.
Yee, R.W., Yeung, A.C. and Cheng, T.E., 2008. The impact of employee satisfaction on quality and profitability in high-contact service industries. Journal of operations management, 26(5), pp.651-668.