Affect is a generic term that covers a broad range of feelings that people experience. It’s an umbrella concept that encompasses both emotions and moods. Emotions are intense feelings that are directed at someone or something. Finally, moods are feelings that tend to be less intense than emotions and that lack a contextual stimulus.

Emotions are reactions to an object, not a trait. They are object-specific. You show your emotions when you’re happy about something, angry at someone, afraid of something. Moods, on the other hand, aren’t directed at an object. Emotions can turn into moods when you lose focus on the contextual object. So when a work colleague criticizes you for the way you spoke to a client, you might become angry at him. That is, you show emotion (angry) toward a specific object (your colleague) But later in the day, you might find yourself just generally dispirited. You can’t attribute this feeling to any single event; you’re just not your normal, upbeat self. This affect state describes a mood.

Emotional labor

If you ever had a job working in retail sales or waiting on tables in a restaurant, you known the importance of projecting a friendly demeanor and a smile. Even though there were days when you didn’t feel very cheerful, you knew management expected you to be upbeat when dealing with customers. So you faked it. And in so doing, you expressed emotional labor.

Every employee expends physical and mental labor when they put their bodies and cognitive capabilities, respectively, into their job. But jobs also require emotional labor. This is when an employee expresses organizationally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions.

The concept of emotional labor originally developed in relation to service jobs. Airline flight attendants, are expected to be cheerful, funeral counselors sad, and doctors emotionally neutral. But today, the concepts of emotional labor is relevant to almost every job. You’re expected, for example, to be courteous and not hostile in interactions with coworkers. The true challenge is when employees have to project one emotion while simultaneously feeling another. This creates emotional dissonance, which can take a heavy toll on employees. Left untreated, bottled up feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment can eventually lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.