As we move away from pandemic times, some remnants still linger. One is the amount of emotional labor that often goes into our relationships with students and colleagues. This increasingly common and often demanding component of campus interactions involves those situations where we’re listening to and absorbing other people’s problems, explaining issues like systemic racism that directly impact us and sometimes suppressing our own emotions in an effort to best meet organizational needs. The lines between work and personal life have become much more porous. So, what might emotional labor look like in action?

  • Trying to create a positive environment among colleagues or peers, which can mean diffusing negative situations, helping those who are struggling emotionally and managing your own actions/reactions
  • A student always on the cusp of financial concerns making them drop out who is looking to you for ideas, resources and solutions
  • A co-worker commenting on your hair as a Black woman and how it’s always changing, constantly wanting information so you feel pressured to explain protective styles
  • A co-worker struggling with a relationship breaking up and using you as their stand-in therapist while they work through their emotions
  • An acquaintance consistently posting hardships on social media and asking if you’ve seen the latest, wanting you to respond
  • Having to bite your tongue when a parent calls, speaking to you rudely and threateningly
  • Managing hostile emotions directed at you through microaggressions or biased behaviors while also managing your own emotional reactions
  • Handling a student’s anxiety as they are triggered by certain topics brought up during class or in another group setting
  • A one-sided connection where you are consistently showing up to listen to someone, ask how they’re doing, follow up on things they’ve said, show an interest and more without them doing the same for you

Source: Right as Rain from UW Medicine, the University of Washington, 3/2/22

For more from this in-service session – Avoid Burnout: Healthy Ways to Handle Emotional Labor and Protect Your Well-Beingand nine other staff development sessions, please check out our NEW 60-Minute In-Service and Staff Development Sessions binder.