From worker to worker-owner : emotional labor in the cooperative workplace

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2012-08

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Abstract

Many studies into emotional labor are constrained by a capitalist paradigm, where emotional labor is performed within corporate organizations with hierarchical divisions of labor. Using the case of Hotel BAUEN, this paper considers emotional labor in different organizational and relational context: a worker-owned and worker-recovered business in Argentina. Drawing on ethnographic observations in Hotel BAUEN, this paper shows how service work is structured in the cooperative hotel. Instead of doing emotional labor in the traditional “service triangle,” worker-owners provide services in a “cooperative dyad” without the oversight of a boss. This structural difference has both organizational and relational implications for the business. First, worker-owners provide a variety of services to a broad set of customers. Second, the processes of autogestión (self-management) rely on workers’ emotional labor to cultivate lateral workplace relations through self-management. Ultimately, within the cooperative service workplace, emotional labor functions differently than the literature would suggest. Rather than reproduce social inequalities, workers use emotional labor to generate capital and sustain an organization that seeks to reduce inequality.

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