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Emotional Labor

The Invisible Work Shaping Our Lives and How to Claim Our Power

Rose Hackman

Flatiron Books

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ISBN10: 1250777372
ISBN13: 9781250777379

Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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We’re tired.

A stranger insists you “smile more,” even as you navigate a high-stress environment or grating commute. A mother is expected to oversee every last detail of domestic life. A nurse works on the front line, worried about her own health, but has to put on a brave face for her patients. A young professional is denied promotion for being deemed abrasive instead of placating her boss. Nearly every day, we find ourselves forced to edit our emotions to accommodate and elevate the emotions of others. Too many of us are asked to perform this exhausting, draining work at no extra cost, especially if we’re women or people of color.

Emotional labor is essential to our society and economy, but it’s so often invisible. In this groundbreaking, journalistic deep dive, Rose Hackman shares the stories of hundreds of women, tracing the history of this kind of work and exposing common manifestations of the phenomenon. But Hackman doesn’t simply diagnose a problem—she empowers us to combat this insidious force and forge pathways for radical evolution, justice, and change.

Drawing on years of research and hundreds of interviews, you’ll learn:
· How emotional labor pervades our workplaces, from the bustling food service industry to the halls of corporate America
· How race, gender, and class unequally shape the load we carry
· Strategies for leveling the imbalances that contaminate our relationships, social circles, and households
· Empowering tools to stop anyone from gaslighting you into thinking the work you are doing is not real work

Emotional labor is real, but it no longer has to be our burden alone. By recognizing its value and insisting on its shared responsibility, we can set ourselves free and forge a path to a world where empathy, love, and caregiving claim their rightful power.


Praise for Emotional Labor

“An urgent look at emotional labor and its various intersections that many of us only recognize as entering 'womanhood'—that we should edit the expression of our emotions to accommodate and elevate others. She challenges that the invisible work of women is not only an expectation of society but also a burden that is impossible to sustain. Hackman’s words reveal the agency of women is still possible while the power of care, empathy, and love in action can lead us to the best in our humanity.”—Eve Rodsky, New York Times bestselling author of Fair Play and National Bestseller Find Your Unicorn Space

“In this welcome and informative volume, Hackman gives us a bracing, wide-angle view of the many hidden theaters of emotional labor—at the kitchen sink, check-out counter, corporate meeting. Done wisely, emotional labor is a great gift to civilization we should all know about—intimately.”—Arlie Hochschild, author of National Book Award finalist Strangers in Their Own Land and the New York Times bestseller The Second Shift

Emotional Labor is a sharp, incisive exposé, a rallying cry that demands we acknowledge and value the hefty invisibilized work shouldered by the least privileged among us.”—Bernice Yeung, author of Pulitzer Prize Finalist In a Day’s Work

"Hackman peels back the layers hiding the hard work of the heart that makes the world hum. A poignant call to action."—Chelsea Conaboy, author of Mother Brain

“I will be distributing this book to all the people in my life. May this labor be seen.”—Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez, author of For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts

"As she critiques the neoliberalism that has given rise to an economic system built on invisible exploitation, Hackman issues a clarion call to rethink the true relationship between empathy and power. Hackman vividly demonstrates that this system encompasses both the domestic and professional spheres, affecting the lives of women across lines of race and socio-economic class . . . A thought-provoking and incisive book."—Kirkus Reviews

"[An] enlightening book."Booklist

"This is an inspiring, infuriating study of the toll it takes on people when they’re expected to smile, while taking on more and exhausting responsibilities without getting paid more.”Library Journal (starred review)

"Expertly blending case studies and statistics, this is a profound call for reorienting 'our fundamental value systems.'"Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


What Is Emotional Labor, Exactly?


A few days before Mother’s Day, a day that ended up being about everything except putting her feet up and being celebrated, Jennifer tells me she reached breaking point. The...

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