Emotional Labour

Emotional labor is unpaid, often invisible, work that a person is compelled to do by others to keep them happy.

It is a term created by sociologist Arlie Hochschild meaning to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward [support] that produces the proper state of mind in others.” It described the need for workers to regulate their emotions to satisfy their customers (and ultimately, their employers).

It shouldn’t be surprising that it is marginalized people, particularly women and femmes, who generally bear the burden of emotional labor. People demanding it are generally doing so from a place of privilege.

A less formal acronym, SSDTGU (Sh!t Someone Does That Goes Unrecognized) was coined by Khe Hy.

Emotional labor is distinct from “emotion work” or the interpersonal task (i.e., gift giving, event planning) that women often do in work and home lives, a current point of confusion.


Fessler, Leah, An extremely clear definition of emotional labor for anyone who still doesn’t get it, Quartz. May 24, 2018

Hochschild, Arlie Russell (1983). The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hy Khe, A bro’s take on emotional labor, RadReads,

Resnick, Ariane, What Is Emotional Labor? VeryWellMind. September 20, 2021

Ricketts, R. (2021). Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy. Atria Books.