Ordering a birthday cake for the office. It seems like a perfectly inane task which happens every time there is a colleague’s birthday. Now let’s think about the last birthday celebration that you can remember. Think about who ordered that cake, who collected the money for it and who distributed it after it was cut.
More often than not, all these tasks were performed by a woman in your workplace. And that is simply what ‘emotional labor’ is. It can be something as passable as a woman going out of her way to make people more comfortable, less offended or even putting on a happy face even when she isn’t.
In a workplace setting, it is perfectly acceptable to expect employees to be cordial and pleasant. The problem arises when it’s only women who are taking the extra step to make colleagues, customers and clients feel well supported. Emotional labor feels so natural to women that it permeates deeply into their behaviour, not just in the workplace, but also in their homes and social settings.
Tilting the Balance for Better
A burgeoning wage gap, unbalanced responsibilities at home have all added to this invisible labor and it takes its toll on the working woman. So in the journey to #BalanceForBetter, how do we fix this?
The issue of combating unhealthy emotional labor can begin only when everyone in the work ecosystem can actively recognize and take steps to fix it.
For employers, it can be as easy as ensuring that menial tasks like taking notes or ordering food don’t always fall upon women. Learn to identify problem areas like credit not being given to those who deserve it and men being congratulated and coddled more than women.
For women, the journey to unlearning the vocabulary of emotional labor begins with clearly identifying your priorities and then drawing boundaries for yourself. With most workplaces still being male dominated, there is always a fear of being looked at as overtly emotional or abrasive when you assert yourself.
It’s 2019, it’s time we let go of the notion that everyone in the workplace needs to be neutral, stoic and diplomatic. It can be instinctual to put everyone above yourself, at the cost of your own mental health. Put simple processes in practice like communicating clearly that you will not be entertaining work calls during the weekend or putting together a FAQ sheet so that every query doesn’t become a 10 minute long conversation.
Having a conversation about emotional labor is simply the first step in a long journey of equalizing the work environment. Creating a more balanced ecosystem is still on the map, with every step taking us closer to the goal of a more balanced workplace.
At .CO, we’re for everyone and that means doing our bit to balance the scales and support everyone adding their voice to the conversation. .CO is dedicated to advancing women entrepreneurs, one URL at a time. Find out more at www.becourageous.co