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Putting on a happy face may be one of the most stressful tasks for workers. New research shows faking emotions is driving some workers to breaking point.

A type of workplace stress called emotional labour is taking its toll on staff and workplaces. A study by University of Sydney Business School researchers Anya Johnson and Helena Nguyen found workers who suppress their emotions are taking an extra six to eight days off work a year. They are also more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

Workers hide their real emotions to please customers, patients or even bosses and for some, it’s a day-to-day demand, Johnson says.

“I think it’s mostly assumed that’s just a natural part of life and we just do it as a normal course of events without necessarily considering it as a demand in the workplace,” Johnson says.

“We found it not only leads to emotional exhaustion and people taking more time off work, it has implications for job turnover and for organisations because it means they’re constantly having to backfill positions.”

Nurses and parking officers were among those interviewed for the study, which is titled When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Working: Impact of Emotional Labour on Absenteeism.

But emotional labour can be found in most high-stress professions, Johnson says.

“There’s a whole group of occupations in the literature known as the dirty work,” she says.

“It’s really any role where you interface with the public in some way on behalf of your organisation. Whether you’re sitting on a phone dealing with complaints or you’re a funeral director, all of these jobs require you to manage emotions and regulate your emotions in a way that enables you to do the job regardless of how you feel inside.”

– Kate Jones

Source: What’s the latest workplace stress?