Aging and Emotionally Demanding Jobs

aging can make emotional demands worse
Over time, emotionally demanding jobs can take a toll on your health - even more when you're aging! Find out what to do here.

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There are all kinds of demands that we face at work. But, managing emotions is one of the more difficult things we have to do on the job. Certain types of jobs have greater amounts of emotional demands involved in them. If you’re in one of these jobs, the emotional labor that you need to do at work could lead you to feel burnt out. As you’re aging, the burden of managing emotions at work might add up, making it harder to manage demands. So, could your job be impacting your well-being over time? Read on to find out if it is and what to do!

Are You in an Emotionally Demanding Job?

The first thing that you’ll need to figure out is whether or not you’re in an emotionally demanding job. If you’re not, then you probably don’t need to worry about negative impacts of emotional labor. If you are, then you may be at risk as you’re aging. There are several features that determine if your job is emotionally demanding.

First, if you assist or care for others a lot on the job, you are likely experiencing more emotional demands. Nurses, teachers, and therapists, for example, are in jobs like this. Second, if you work with the public or deal with external customers a lot, your job will be more emotionally demanding. So, if you’re a customer service representative or a server, you likely have more of these demands. Finally, if you have to deal with conflict, or unhappy people, a lot, you are likely managing emotions more frequently. Being a repair technician or an HR representative in a dysfunctional organization, for example, might require you to spend a lot of your time dealing with complaints. Do these apply to you? If so, you have a job that is high on emotional demands.

Emotionally demanding jobs get harder as you're aging
Do you work in a job where customer service is crucial? You might have a more challenges to well-being as you’re aging!

Aging Can Make Emotional Demands Worse

As you’re aging, you might imagine that you’d get better at managing emotional demands, and they would matter less. Unfortunately, research shows that this isn’t the case. Instead, the demands of managing your emotions over time seems to compound, taking a bigger toll on your well-being and job satisfaction than it used to.

This is because having to always care for others, put on a happy “face”, or stay calm as a customer berates you is challenging. These challenges seem to reach a breaking point quicker, as you’re aging. Research shows that having to fake your emotions at work can have negative implications for your health. It may be that, as you face other health challenges through aging, you become less prepared to deal with emotional challenges. So, it’s really important to make sure that you’re protecting yourself, or other folks you know who are aging, against these declines!

Aging doesn't tune out negative emotions
You might think that you’ll be better able to tune out negative emotions at work when you’re aging. Unfortunately, it seems the impact gets worse.

Protecting Yourself from the Effects of Aging

One of the best things that you can do to avoid the compounding effects of aging if you’re in an emotionally demanding job, is to find a job that doesn’t have these demands. This might seem idealistic, and maybe it is. But, the best way to manage these demands is to lessen them. If that’s not an option, you might create connections with your coworkers, to give yourself an emotional release. If you can share in the difficulties of managing conflicts with others, it can help you to “blow off steam”. You might also save any thank you notes or positive feedback you get from customers or others at work. Remembering the people who benefited from your work can help you cope with negativity!

As you’re aging, you might also find yourself in a higher-level position, where you’re managing people who are also doing emotion work. To help yourself, and others, it’s really important to allow employees to have time to disconnect from emotion management. Encourage your employees to be authentic when they aren’t facing customers directly. And let them be themselves to the extent possible in front of customers as well. The less employees have to worry about managing their emotions, the less impact these jobs will have as they are aging. So, if you’re a leader and you don’t want your aging employees to burn out, allow them to let loose sometimes!

Do you have an emotionally demanding job? Aging doesn’t have to be a negative experience – you can start making changes to your job now that might lessen the impact of these demands in the future!

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