You tend to be a bit stoic.
Try and show a little personality.
She’s great but try to get some personality out of her.
I don’t think she likes us that much.
She’s a bit standoffish.
Why are you so mean?
I don’t know how many times I’ve been made aware of the emotional labor I’m expected to do at work as a black woman. I have to be outgoing and What’s a sis gotta do to get more focus on my skills and talent rather than how accommodating and people-pleasing I can be? Granted, the jobs where I received this critique were service-based workplaces were extroverts and the pleasers would farewell. It would seem as though this will be the case in every workplace on the planet. It comes to no surprise that I’ve gotten this more from other women than men. Who better to remind other women of the rules than women?
In my search for articles on emotional labor, I came across scholarly work from Arlie Hochschild. One of Hochschild’s theories concerning the presentation of emotions includes the commercialization of feelings. This is where the workplace expects it’s employees to adhere to written or unwritten rules of the emotional display to entice and keep potential customers. In a perfect world, this makes sense. People don’t buy products, consultations or the like. People buy people. People buy into the emotions employees display within their workplace. Bosses want their employees to bring about specific outcomes using their emotions. The problem is that there are mostly women put in these positions. We’re all presumably better at this kind of labor, emotional labor. More so than men. Not necessarily. And definitely not me. Definitely Not I.
I know what you’re thinking. Would it kill you to smile or try harder to be pleasant? And the answer is a bold-faced YES. Especially when I’m being paid in peanuts. I die a little inside each time I have to perform happiness or otherwise dilute myself for others. Emotional labor is an added stressor for women in the workplace. Being called to display traditionally feminine emotions while at work is an added stressor. (These gender norms are also at play in my personal relationships but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)
I’ve been told that my personality would be fitting if I were a man. It’s entirely true. I can be assertive and bossy with the best of them. So, No. I’m not mean. I’m not a shrinking violet either.
But if I were a boy, I wouldn’t be a BITCH.