Precious Gifts of Emotional Labor

Emotional labor is the practice of developing our passions so that we can invest them into our work. This seemingly illogical investment is what makes it possible for us to:

  1. connect, impress, and inspire others
  2. build reputation and loyalty

I’ll start with an example.
Several years ago I was somewhat of a regular at a particular coffee shop despite not being a coffee drinker. It started with at the request of a client who had an office just around the corner. I went with a black tea that was recommended by the barista. It was a particularly quiet afternoon so I decided to do a little work on my laptop after my meeting concluded and asked for the password to WiFi. I was caught off guard by the response from the barista; “ItsOurPleasure” was the password and in the same breath, he offered to freshen up my tea.

Talk about a gift. This was back in the time where you had to pay for WiFi at Starbucks whether you ordered something or not. And their password was “ItsOurPleasure”!

After a bit, a song came on the stereo that I rather enjoyed. I had never heard it before, but instantly loved it, so I asked if the barista knew anything about what was playing and we began a great conversation about music. It turns out that the owner of the shop and believed in supporting independent businesses – including the music that was played. Each month staff members made several additions to the playlist and offered to email the list to anyone who wanted it.

As I finished my work, I bought a ½ pound bag of tea for home and began hosting many meetings there.

Emotional gifts come in a variety of ways, be it curated playlists, clever WiFi passwords, positive notes on restaurant checks, auto-parts clerks installing fresh windshield wipers in the rain (when else do you notice needing them?). They are simple gestures that make big impressions on others and form the cornerstone of customer loyalty.


“We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle


Emotional labor is a personal investment of passion. It cannot be mandated. Great managers and leaders develop ways to encourage and refine these precious gifts through acknowledgement, appreciation, coaching, implementation, and proper recognition. The ideal environment is crucial to build and maintain. Due to their personal nature, each individual will respond as differently as the gifts they contribute.

Poor managers tend to focus on consistency and compliance with standard policies and procedures These are effective at minimizing the opportunity to contribute such precious gifts. Besides removing opportunities to build customer loyalty; when we do not, or are not allowed to invest emotional labor, we quickly become bored with our work.

If left alone, this boredom will grow into fatigue and even disengagement. Even worse is when poor managers misinterpret these as indicators that action is needed, rather than results of what is existing. This false premise might bring attempts to motivate; either with potential for pay and bonuses, or threats of discipline and consequences.

A couple of easy signs that emotional labor is being invested by your people include, but are not limited to; Smiling, whistling while working, contributing ideas (especially those that come to mind in the shower or morning commute), increased patience and punctuality, as well as a general eagerness to be part of the team.

What are you doing to encourage your people to invest precious emotional gifts?

About David Frick
David brings a holistic approach to business growth that unites advertising, marketing, sales with aspects of leadership and operations. As the founder of SuccessVentures, he is driven to help build people, build value, and build business