Call centre representatives’ days are filled with non-stop social interactions that require them to continuously regulate and manage their emotions. Yet, the emotions they feel and those they express often don’t align, a phenomenon known as emotional dissonance.

Call centre representatives answer questions, address concerns, and deal with complaints. These emotional engagements within the context of work are referred to as emotional labour.

Why Emotional Dissonance is Important for Call Centre Representatives

There are aspects of emotional labour to every job; usually it’s not an issue. But, when workers start faking emotions, or surface acting – as emotional dissonance is commonly referred to – it can take a toll on their wellbeing and productivity.

Research shows that lowered self-esteem, depression, cynicism, reduced professional accomplishment and job satisfaction, irritation, fatigue, higher turnover rates, and psychosomatic complaints are all linked to emotional dissonance.

This is pretty alarming when you consider that approximately 21 per cent of call centre representatives experience emotional dissonance upwards of several times an hour.

Identifying Emotional Dissonance in Call Centre Representatives

Determining whether a worker is experiencing emotional dissonance is tricky, but there are signs co-workers and employers can watch for. First, the individual may begin to have difficulties regulating their emotions and, as a result, appear very depressed, anxious, or quick to anger. They might become more withdrawn and avoid emotional interactions or engaging with customers to protect themselves from further harm.

Workers may need additional sick days to recover from emotional dissonance, particularly is they are experiencing physical symptoms on top of the more common mental ones. In these cases, it’s common for the worker’s self-esteem to take a major hit, causing them to feel like they can no longer enjoy or be successful at their job.

So, how can we support workers who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, emotional dissonance?

One of the more common solutions is to train and encourage employees to use deep acting rather than surface acting. To do this, workers intentionally try to align their feelings and expressions with the required emotions, leading to more genuine interactions with customers and lower stress levels.

Accomplishing this involves training to build an awareness around emotional dissonance for both call centre representatives and management. Some research even suggests using emotional intelligence training to support the development of skills for combating negative emotional experiences and finding more meaning in work.

It is important to note that while not all workers will find the requirements to express organizationally desired emotions harmful or dissatisfying, providing awareness and training can still function as a preventative measure for maintaining positive mental health practices.

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