Emotional labour is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors.

Emotional labour was defined by American professor Arlie Hochschild in her seminal book, The Managed Heart, in 1983. Her definition states emotional labour as the process of having to hide emotions in order to alleviate anxieties of those who are being served. People who work in the hospitality industry understand that no matter how you may be feeling, you rarely lose the veneer of a smile and happiness. Other industries, such as social work, child care, and medical, also experience this management of emotions on a daily basis due to professional needs.

In a modern-context, emotional labour has become a synonym for “women’s work” or any situation in which one is asked to deal with one's own or someone else’s emotions. Arlie Hochschild has been made aware of the new definition for her term, and she states it makes the concept of emotional labour too vague. She also says that many of the things people tend to declare as emotional labour, is frankly just labour.