Women, Work and Emotional Labour

Emotional labour – an advantage at low and entry level … but then what?

Emotional labour has been described as “the work of caring” It’s the work which you do when you fake or suppress feelings for the greater good. In the workplace, it takes many forms: making small-talk with colleagues, inviting new hires out for lunch, laughing at your client’s jokes.

For women, emotional labour is a doubled edged swordTweet this

Call it Networking!

As the joke goes, “When men do it, they call it networking”

Also known as affective labour, emotional labour is largely ignored , partly because it’s difficult to measure.  Can you imagine filling out a CV with lists of the emotional tasks you perform at your job? Make small talk with clients.  Be friendly towards new hires. Buy leaving gifts.  Fill out wipe-clean dishwashing rota in staff kitchen.  None of that is in your contract, but it needs to be done, and who else is going to do it?

Affective Labour

Some careers are built around affective labour – think of teachers, nurses, and social workers. The issue comes when women find themselves pushed into affective labour which they didn’t sign up for, when their male colleagues get to carry on with the tasks that are strictly in their job description.

Women are far more likely than men to be criticised for insufficient emotional labour. Tweet this A recent analysis of performance reviews found that descriptors like “abrasive” or “bossy” were applied exclusively to women – not describing the woman’s performance, but reflecting the way she made others feel.


Emotional labour – is it a female role?

Do strong emotions at work lead to stress?

Emotions are a slippery subject to research, but studies of affective labour amongst medics has turned up some interesting results.  Contrary to what you might expect, feeling strong emotion at work (positive or negative) does not lead to increased stress.  What really messes people up is automatically expressing emotions which they aren’t feeling.  Think of the “Thanks for your custom, have a nice day!” you spit down the phone at a rude client.  Regardless of profession or gender, workers who have to continually suppress negative feelings are much more likely to want to quit.

We can argue about whether women have a natural aptitude for emotional workTweet this, or whether we’re trained into it, but the fact is that women do find it easier.  Men who work in the “human services professions” (jobs such as education, caring, and social work) have a massively increased risk of psychological damage – one Danish study found that they were two and a half times more likely to suffer severe stress than women doing the same jobs.

Like a lot of social issues, emotional labour affects rich and poor women differently.

 Now that traditional blue-collar occupations are in decline, the bottom end of the labour market is dominated by emotional work.  Mining and manufacturing are being replaced by care work and call-centres, and this gives women an advantage in a minimum-wage economy.  To put it bluntly, a working-class woman is more likely than her male counterpart to have been raised with the chatty, smiley set of social skills which are so useful for work.

Emotional Labour – A Double Edged Sword

Emotional labour in the workplace is a double-edged sword.  At the top, it leaves professional women with frustrating extra responsibilities for which they aren’t appreciated.  At the other end of the scale, though, women’s aptitude for emotional labour gives them an advantage in many entry-level roles.

Career Coaching and Skill Development will help to manage your career in a way that will maximize your talents, overcome any obstacles and give you the opportunities for growth you deserve!

3Plus, Career, Communication
Alice Bell
Alice Bell
Email | Google+ |
"Alice writes online about business, popular science, and women's lifestyle. After a few years working her way around the world, she has settled in the north of England and taken a day job as a maths teacher. Her life's ambition is to earn enough money to start repaying her student debt."
Found that interesting? Learn more about our services
Individual services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
more info
Corporate services
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
more info
Upcoming events
Currently we don't have upcoming events
Download and listen free podcasts
Why all women need a strong LinkedIn profile
Free Download

Data on women on LinkedIn has always been hard to get and analyse, but some new information sheds light on how women use the platform differently to their male colleagues and what those differences mean. You will find out why you need a strong LinkedIn profile.

It has always been difficult to identify women on LinkedIn because it’s not possible to do a search based on gender. Any efforts to track women on LinkedIn specifically, involve complex Boolean strings involving pronouns or searching via women’s clubs, universities and networks. So any analysis has always been more anecdotal around perceptions and personal experience, rather than data based. However research from 2017  using LinkedIn member profile data for members in the United States over the past 12 months. Published on the LinkedIn blog it supports pretty much what we already know about women on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn  is the main professional data base used globally by hiring managers and recruiters, yet women continue to engage less than their male colleagues, putting themselves at a distinct professional disadvantage. Now we have some facts and figures as well as tips and tricks to persuade  you to up your game. All women have to have a strong LinkedIn profile. No ifs and buts.


How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters
Free Download

In this power coaching podcast, we’re going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple times a week by active job seekers and passive candidates.

How can I get noticed by head hunters and recruiters and connect with them?

In this short power coaching podcast Dorothy Dalton shares some tips and tricks to make sure that you are always on the radar of the recruitment and search specialists who can be most helpful to you. With extensive experience in executive search and corporate HR Dorothy has placed, coached and trained thousands of men and women to career success. As a career coach she has a deep understanding of the job search market and what job seekers need to do to position themselves to they are easily found.

As CEO of 3Plus she also has deep experience of the challenges women face in the workplace. Sadly because women tend not to create career strategies they can be vulnerable when it comes to dealing with change. Regular transitions become career crises. In this short session you will learn some simple tips and tricks to make sure you are on the radar of key recruitment specialists in your sector, geography or function.  It’s not rocket science.





One of the most puzzling things about working in executive search is that people and I say this reluctantly particularly women fail to plan ahead. You’ve heard me say before that only 5% of women have a career strategy. This means that they are not prepared for any emergencies until they become a crisis.


Goal setting tips to boost your career
Free Download

The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and the upcoming work week. So how do you get to a place where you look forward to a new week of doing what satisfies you? You’ll have to either learn to love your current role, or make a commitment to pursue your dream job. Use these goal setting tips to help you get to where you want to be.

Some women choose the latter, and to do so you’ll have to set career goals to get where you want to be. So make sure you have a detailed plan on how to land a job that you will tick all the boxes.

The majority of women choose to stay in their own organizations and even then you still need to have goals, not just KPis set by your manager. But even if you do see your career developing within your current business it’s still important to set goals.

Many women struggle with career planning and creating a career strategy which can lead to problems. This makes them vulnerable to and sort of challenge which can moprh into a full blown career crisis. Some simple steps to plan and prepare can help avoid this.

Take a look at these goal setting tips to help boost your career and set you on the right path.

Lewis Carroll  said

If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

Research shows that only about 5% of women create career goals and a career strategy. This can have a negative impact on your career progression. It means you are reactive not proactive and career glitches can morph into full blown crises. It puts women at a clear disadvantage to men.

Learn these simple goal setting tips to boost your career and protect and prepare you for all eventualities. If these goal setting tips make you think that you could use some further help,  contact us immediately.


When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage
Free Download

There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about  female rivalry and competition between women. Some of it makes sense and some of it is confusing. Organizations are pyramids with fewer roles at the top than at the bottom. It is inevitable that at some level, as more and more women are in the talent pipeline, at some point they will be in competition with other women.

Many would say that women aren’t competitive. I would suggest re-framing that. I think it’s more accurate to say they are not as competitive in the workplace as men. We have also been made to feel guilty about being competitive. We need to get over that.  Here are the reasons:

  1. The male nature of corporate culture makes it a disincentive to compete
  2. Women don’t want to compete because  prescribed male goals are not attractive enough for them. “Work 14 hour days, not see my partner or family … get sick.. die..no thanks.. I’ll pass”
  3. Women don’t know how to compete in the workplace. They are new arrivals on the corporate competition scene and lack practise.
  4. Women experience gender blow back when they do compete, from both men and women
  5. Women have been raised to think that competing with other women is not empowering them. As more women enter the talent pipeline that is just nonsense.

Learn some insights from Annabel Kaye, Employment Law Expert about how it’s OK to be competitive and the danger zone when it can turn into sabotage. Understand the benefits of mutual support and how all women can profit from having strong strategic allies, role models and mentors.