Wingfield, Adia Harvey. “Are Some Emotions Marked ‘Whites Only’? Racialized Feeling Rules in Professional Workplaces.” Social Problems, vol. 57, no. 2, May 2010, pp. 251–68.
“One guy came up to me one day and said that my shirt was nice but maybe I should tuck it in. We have no office dress code. There’s white men in the office that wear sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts. I had on khakis and a polo shirt, and he says I would look professional if I tucked my shirt in?”
–Jay, systems administrator
Adia Harvey Wingfield brings critical race theory into the conversation started by Hochschild and other scholars about the gendered nature of emotional labor. She conducts structured interviews with black professionals from different fields to demonstrate how “feeling rules” in the workplace, rather than being neutral, assume and privilege workers who are white, middle-class, and male. In this context, black employees need to do additional emotion work in order to be perceived (to “pass”) as part of the organization. The feeling management that black employees engage in on a daily basis includes the performance of pleasantness and the concealment of anger and irritation (especially if these emerge in response to racist or culturally biased behavior). In spite of guaranteeing job stability, emotion work has a high cost for professionals who experience devaluation, frustration, and alienation from their professional community on a daily basis. Although Wingfield's piece focuses exclusively on emotion work that minoritized employees have to perform in order to navigate professional relations and dynamics in corporate contexts as opposed to emotion management in which producing and exchanging emotional states is the core of the work (e.g.: the care, service, and sex industry), the study provides strong evidence in support of the argument about the racialized character of feeling rules and how they perpetuate white work environments.
Read some of Adia Harvey Wingfield's open access work on race and emotion management in the workplace here.