The Hidden Cost of Unpaid Emotional Labor

Cynthia Bord

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In the midst of the Great Resignation, people are finally sitting up and realizing that they are the reason for record-breaking numbers. The “company” didn’t do that, the employees did. The ideas, the work, and the innovation that the employees brought forth and did break those numbers. Not the company. Not the management. The only thing the company and management did was place roadblocks, bureaucracy, and hair-pulling inadequacies that made those things that the employees achieved harder to do.

Your boss knows how much you bring to your job, the team, and the company. Are you the one assigned to open the group chats in the morning because everyone on the team likes you and wouldn’t mind a quick ping from you to start the day? It’s because your boss knows that almost everyone else has made others dislike them in some way that makes them intolerable to hear from, especially in the morning, and would actively decrease team morale if your boss assigned them to open the group chats instead of you.

This isn’t really “part of your job”, is it? Because no one else on the team with the same role is doing this every day. Does it take much time away from your other responsibilities? Maybe not, but it does take away from your available mental and emotional resources. Just because you're cheery and optimistic doesn’t mean that this is an unlimited resource. You deserve to be recognized for the positive demeanor that no one else can provide.

And it should follow that other aspects of work on your plate should be decreased by your boss to ensure that you are operating at the same capacity across different areas of work to match that of your co-workers. If that isn’t managed effectively by your manager, as it is her job to do so, then it may be time to move onto greener pastures at a different company, because they so clearly see your worth and are hoping that you do not s that they can wring out every last bit of work they can get out of you until you are a shell of your former self.

Do you always get work done on time and in perfect condition? Most other people need to be poked and prodded multiple times to do that. That’s why there are people managers whose entire job is to manage people. Because many people are incapable of managing themselves. You are making your boss's job easier and earning her paycheck for her. And yet you are not paid more for being a better employee than the next person. Because people are paid based on how much money it takes to rehire someone else in the role, not for how someone performs in a role. That’s what the elusive year-end bonus is for, which is usually averaged at around 6% of your base salary.

A partner who takes advantage of your emotional labor. You give them emotional support and they take it for granted. Many people are apathetic, damaged, and lack emotional strength. And therefore, are unable to provide reciprocal emotional support. That’s okay by itself, but it is not okay to give emotional support and receive none or little in return. Your partner knows that what you are capable of (i.e. your love, your ambition, your love) is worth a lot and gives them great benefits to feel safe and secure.

Feeling this way is essential to any part of a good relationship. And you being able to do this for your partner speaks to how great of a partner you are and how healthy you want to make the relationship. If this is one-sided, however, then your partner is nothing more than a parasite.

But why are you not expecting the same amount in return for that love? No, love is not a transaction, but a healthy relationship is based on a reciprocal exchange of positive resources. If you contribute a high level of work to the household by doing the laundry and making dinner, then your spouse should be doing the same amount to make the household run by doing the dishes and going grocery shopping.

If this isn’t the case, then your spouse is taking advantage of you and your kindness. How can they benefit from your labor and simultaneously forsake anything needed from their side to make the relationship work and you feel appreciated and less burnt out? People know your worth. Make sure you do too so that you get exactly what you deserve.

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writer on love, tech, and politics, lover of coffee and petter of dogs

New York, NY
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