Engagement levels for your work include physical, mental, and emotional. Physical labor doesn’t have to be taxing. It could be simply typing or talking. Mental levels of labor require having to think about what you’re doing, making decisions instead of simply pulling a lever or pressing a button on cue with a prompt.
Emotional labor is what it costs to care. If my work isn’t done with excellence, does that matter? Does that bother me? When I have to interact with people who are difficult or who are insulting me, am I willing to do my best for them? If you don’t value or appreciate my sacrifice, does that change the likelihood of whether I will continue to work hard emotionally?
The reward for my emotional labor is not going to appear on my paystub as a line item if my employer doesn’t value it. It is the most valuable thing I bring to work, but that doesn’t mean that my employer knows or cares.
A business or organization that is staffed by people who bring emotional labor to the table will benefit from the work their workers invest. A business or organization that only has machine parts as workers, who don’t care about anything but the pay, or who are easily offended and respond with slackness or fear or stinginess, will not prosper without controlling their workers with intimidation or constant supervision and beatings.
The responses I offer to challenges and opportunities in my work environment will be what I possess at the end of the day and week and career. If I respond with generosity and blessing and peace, those will be what I hold in my hands after the transactions. If I respond with paranoia, bitterness, anger and stinginess, my hands will be filled with thorns and stones and dust when I’m done.
The source of strength to make me able to bring emotional value to my encounters is the fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22,23). It is His strength at work in me that makes me able to respond to a doubtful situation with faith, or a fearful encounter with peace and patience and love, .
Emotional labor looks like “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing,” on days (Luke 23:34). It looks like praising Jesus loudly at midnight some times (Acts 16:25). Sometimes it is simply doing work I know I won’t get paid for.
Your emotional labor helps create an environment that is part of your coworkers’ reward for their emotional labor. The people around you who bring their emotional engagement to work are helping reward you for yours.
Do everything as unto the Lord. Let the costliness of your work be a sacrifice to Him. The altar on which you offer it can never be covered with enough to be an appropriate offering to Him.
Go be awesome.