At first glance this may look like an article about the “emotional labour” in relationships and families. But this will not be anything in the direction of women multi-tasking, caring, “juggling” all the responsibilities and keeping their men happy. This is about emotional labour in the service industry.
I have commented on several articles about emotional labour and written my own experience with Pret A Manger. I list a collection of articles in The Dangers of Emotional Labour with the emphasis of my own and ex-colleagues experiences.
One of the articles that covers the “extreme” emotional labour Pret A Manger expects is an essay I found on academic-master.com “The Enforced Happiness of the Pret A Manger Employee“. Unlike the other articles I found, the author quotes from International Labour Review “that the females will be given preference for interactive services because of their expertise in managing emotions.”
This reminded me again on how Pret used a majority of women against me in grievance hearings, which I explain in “Pret A Mathematics – 10 Hearings – 20 People – 17 Women – 3 Men”. All these women, in leadership roles, were used to manipulate and gaslight me. Where especially the male bullies failed to mob me out of the company with their open aggression, Pret used females to do the “job” in a subtle way, with the ultimate perversion of using a female Development Manager from Head Office, who supposedly had the same loss as I had! My full story with Pret is at the bottom of this page in an interview in the audio player.
Quote from the Academic Master article:
“Another impact of emotional labour in the retail industry that is mentioned in the given case study is that the females will be given preference for interactive services because of their expertise in managing emotions. It will result in the dominance of women in the service economy.
Women show higher sensitivity and politeness in their speech. Their conversational style has been categorised as cooperative, unlike man whose conversational style has been classified as competitive, assertive and direct. These traits of female language play an important role in emotional labour.
Moreover, unlike men, women are taught to conform and compromise for the happiness of the other from their childhood (CLAES, 1999).”
This in itself can fill books, but I remember one particular manager in Pret who would task young, often blonde, female Team Members working on the shop floor greeting customers. The rest of the Team would make jokes about the manager’s preference of who’s going to be the FO (Floor Organizer) during lunch time.
The advertisement industry use mainly women to sell their product. Sexual images, that don’t make any sense in regards to the products, are used for ads, women’s (soothing) voices are recorded for public transport announcements, women’s hands, smiles etc. etc.
One funny but ridiculous ad that Pret did on social media is from December 2018, when Pret advertised the gingerbread man, using a female hand with very unappetizing finger nails. Again, like in other situations, I pointed this out and Pret photo-shopped the image and re-posted a few weeks later. But it shows the lack of professionalism and efficiency of this company.
10. December 2018 lack of manicure, this photo literally turned my stomach!
21. December 2018 photo-shopped version:
A more recent ad isn’t the best manicure either, but I won’t waste more space on this here.
But the fact that women are preferred for emotional labour in the service industry and are sooner reprimanded when they don’t live up to expectations, also shows in many of the customer complaints on Twitter. I don’t have a list here, but the majority of complaints about poor customer service mainly mentions female staff members compared to male servers.
It is particularly unfair when customers mention the names of staff publicly on social media, at times using foul language. It shows what Sophie McBain writes in her article about the harm of emotional labour, “Workers are put at high risk of anxiety and burnout, while consumers are emboldened to behave aggressively.”
I remember many times when customers rebuked us and even cussed at us, and our managers wouldn’t stand up for our protection. Instead, they apologized to the rude customers and gave free coffees to avoid complaints, as Pret does not protect their staff for the sake of profit.
So, being female and having survived this abuse of emotional labour during the darkest time of my life, I have experienced the truth of the saying that “what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger”.
Having worked with suppressed emotions, holding back tears with the loss of my brother and all the trauma I have survived; having smiled while giving my sweat, blood and tears in a company that isn’t worth the dirt under my soles, I turn this emotional labour around with my honest anger and unashamed exposing of a company that is toxic and hurtful to people’s mental and physical health, and plainly dangerous to their very lives!
I’m still doing emotional labour, but this time on my terms!
Pret A Manger has underestimated the power of females.
Clive Schlee, having refused to listen to customer warnings to label his products to save lives, has underestimated a woman he labelled his “late night girl”.
TWO Pret staff have died within a month, 1 is said to be a suicide.
It is not the first suicide in Pret!
>>> Why is Pret A Manger not being investigated on Staff deaths?
I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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