CORE THEMES:

  • Leadership Expectations
  • Emotional Labour
  • The Impact of Post-structural Thinking on Value Development (Professional and Personal

Personal Experience: Disruption and Expected Change

I began my experience analysis with identification of how to discuss it. My experience pertains to the evolution of responsibility and expectations of a basic worker, in my case a waiter just trying to get through university, and how their day to day work attitude can change when forced into a leadership role. A near narrative approach, like the one discussed in week 2, seemed apt as it literally is a personal recollection of an event and I am certainly not an expert or have any prior knowledge of the physiological effect that running a business can impart or how leadership impacts the emotional state of individuals. To this end I have chosen to extend my research into the subject of emotional labour as discussed via the seminar in week 4.

I work at a restaurant in the Wollongong CBD, renamed nameless because I am not exactly describing a positive experience of change. Around six months ago I began training to be a Team Leader, basically the worker who runs the shift, managing other employees, stock, food quality and of course the money at the end of the night. The only problem was that the job I was training for wasn’t one I had seeked out or one I wanted. Now before we go on I can understand why that could come off as pretty selfish, people are out their looking for jobs who really need them, I should be grateful but I had my reasons, specifically the fact that despite all this extra work and due to a infamous clause in the restaurant chains enterprise agreement, I would not be receiving any more compensation for this work. I got the job to pay for noodles and rent, I have a year left of university and a plethora of internship resumes pending, I have plenty of work experience and didn’t need more hospitality experience, especially if it was for less than minimum wage. This would inevitably lend itself to my opinion of the position and my job as a whole, but more on that later.

However, it was made clear that it was either this on no more shifts so I simply did my work and eventually became a Team Leader and learnt from the experience with what I felt was a positive mindset. Something that  I would even dare to say that my fellow team leaders and team members would say I am one of the best to be working with on shift. I used a poststructural technique to develop my leadership style, shaping it on the ideal that by making all employees feel useful and respected they would ‘want’ to do a good job not just because they were there, essentially I tried to be the opposite of a task master, I set goals and if they weren’t meet I was responsible. My team did a good job because they understood I would cop the negative review and lucky they liked me enough to not want that. I acted in a way that I felt generated the type of leader I wanted to be: an archetype rather than a stereotype. Clearly this was a mistake.

Emotional Labour: Smile Through

I don’t wish to throw the management under the bus here but that’s exactly what they would do to the Leadership team anytime anything even mildly resembling an issue reared in between rushes. Here is where I began noticing disruption among my fellow workers’ attitudes. I don’t want to be that type of worker, the one that constantly complains about the bosses, but the more I worked as a Team Leader, the more I resented my position and the flack it had brought me, every morning waking up to a message for a boss: close wasn’t up to standard, why hasn’t this been done? The more I was exposed the more I felt like I was slipping from a place of respect at work to a position of convenience. Chris Brooks said “It’s not about fitting into a personality category, but about learning that you have been making a path over time that’s coherent and effective for you.” and I think that upon reading that I really understood that my place of employment operates under the impression that the employees are that of a transient workforce, expendable at worst and replaceable at best. I wasn’t an archetype of a good Team Leader. I was just the guy holding the broom at eleven thirty pm at night with another thirty minutes on the clock. I had an expectation that the management team had an employee focused set of professional values because those were the same ones I had developed in my position, this was clearly not the case.

After this realisation I decided to look at why it was now such a negative workplace and how me becoming a Team Leader had opened my eyes to it. One glaring factor rose to the top of the pile. At work the Team Leader is expected to hold the ‘Standard of Attitude’, set the tone for how the rest of the team should appear to the customers. I understand that someone probably wouldn’t want to eat somewhere with gloomy face ghosts walking around but I challenge you to work a 43 hour week on nineteen dollars an hour and keep a constantly overjoyed attitude when the party of eight walks in ten minutes before close. This expectation of surface acting described as ‘Surface acting is a process of creation of expected emotions that are not felt by an individual’ by Metka Kogovsek, coupled with an odd amount of off site supervision (one of the managers watches through security cameras) results in a massive emotional labour toll. I mean this in its traditional sense as penned by Arlie Hochschild, constant self suppression at my place of work has begun to take a massive toll, several employees have decided that if this is their day time expectation then their nights are to be those of constant partying and partaking in what I have called ‘numbing activities’ such as binge drinking and reckless behaviour.

Conclusion: Cogs in a Temporary Machine or Temporary Cogs in a Machine? 

Obviously I am not a golden worker, I am a part time imperfect one at best, but the solution to these circumstances has been to quit in the cases of my fellow Team Leaders and due to the closeness of my graduation it is slowly becoming a possibility for me. Is this dealing with it, I hope not although I do harken back to Chris Brooks’ quote and wonder if I am too focused on a professional stereotype I am trying to fit and not the overall road map of decisions that will influence my future careers. As per Micheal White’s Description of Narrative Therapy, I assume that my decisions contribute to me becoming an expert in my own life, shaped by work values with core reasons found throughout these experiences. 

 

References: Sources of Secondary Information on Emotional Labour