Human Resource Management in the Public Sector
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Human Resource Management in the Public Sector

Edited by Ronald J. Burke, Andrew J. Noblet and Cary L. Cooper

This insightful book presents current thinking and research evidence on the role of human resource management policies and practices in increasing service quality, efficiency and organizational effectiveness in the public sector.
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Chapter 7: Emotional labor, job satisfaction and burnout: how each affects the other

Mary E. Guy and Meredith A. Newman


Cool heads, warm hearts. That is what we want when public workers meet citizens. Achieving that combination requires cognitive labor and emotional labor. In this chapter we explain what the term ‘emotional labor’ means, how it pertains to the delivery of public services, and how it contributes to job satisfaction. Strategies are then discussed for dealing with the downside of emotionally intense work. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how human resource functions such as job analysis, selection, training and performance appraisal can contribute to the performance of ‘emotion work’ so that it brings more job satisfaction and less burnout. The term ‘emotional labor’ refers to the management of one’s own feelings as well as those of the person with whom the worker is interacting. Its purpose is to enable ‘getting the job done’. Such work has multiple facets, ranging from authentic expression of the worker’s own emotions, and the suppression of emotions that are felt but not expressed, to requiring workers to don masks and display an emotion that they do not actually feel – such as when they must seem nicer-than-nice or, conversely, tougher-than-tough.

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