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Smiling at work could be taking a hidden toll on you | News

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Smiling at work could be taking a hidden toll on you


Most of us feel like we always need to be “on” at work. But if you’re in a job where you actually have to smile as part of your job, it could be taking a hidden toll on you.

According to California’s Employment Development Department, four of the five occupations with the highest number of job openings in the greater Sacramento area from 2012 to 2022 will be retail sales, cashiers, food preparation and servers.  These are the types of jobs where emotional labor – the psychological term for “service with a smile” – is a big component of the job.

“It takes stamina, I would say. It’s one of the hardest parts of the job. To keep that face, even if you’re inside a little bit tired. It’s a coffee shop, so we’re trying to be perky. People are tired coming in, so if we’re tired, it’s an uninviting atmosphere,” Temple Coffee head trainer Cole Cuchna said.

Smiling doesn’t necessarily seem like hard work … but constantly faking your emotions can be draining to workers.

“What people don’t realize is it’s very fatiguing to put on a smile for 8 hours to people who may or may not return it, all while doing other tasks or requirements as part of your job,” organizational psychologist Alicia Grandey explained.

Grandey, who conducts research at Penn State, says this fatigue can have really serious consequences, including: job dissatisfaction, burnout, low energy and even health issues.

“It’s actually carried over to the home. One has less energy for home life, doing basic household tasks … Tension gets built up from continually smiling if you’re faking it all day long,” Grandey said.

Grandey said nearly everyone in retail or service positions will feel the effects of emotional labor, but extroverts may be able to handle it slightly better. Danica Peterson says she saw that difference firsthand working at a chain restaurant for 9 years.

 “I was just as excited to go to work 9 years later as I was on the first day. But for other employees, you could see they would get discouraged. [If] they didn’t get a good tip or something, it ruined their shift. I saw it in other people. But I’m just a very outgoing person, so not for me personally,” Peterson said.


Back at Temple Coffee, stress is something they’re always thinking about. As the Sacramento coffee chain expands, they’re looking to hire dozens of people.


 “So a big part of our manager’s jobs is to help co-workers worth through difficulties and be a friend at the same time as being a boss. Because at the end of the day, we need to create an environment at Temple that’s fun in order for that to transfer to our customers,” Cuchna said.


If you’re working in a business that requires emotional labor, there is some good news to smile about – seriously. Grandey says there are strategies to combat emotional labor, like being able to take a break after a bad interaction with a customer. It also helps to have co-workers you can vent to about your day. Lastly, feeling rewarded for the work that you do can go a long way.