Re2pect for Emotional Control

After a long summer break which included travel, a move to a new town, and too many weddings I’m back! It’s the 2014-2015 school year and I’m going to try to keep a biweekly posting schedule. Since it’s the fall, I’d like to start by talking about a classic fall topic: baseball.

Dr. Paul Muchinsky, a renowned I/O psychology researcher and textbook author, has written a few pieces  in his column, the High Society in The Industrial Organizational Psychologist (TIP) where he’s mentioned his love of the Yankees.While Muchinsky and I don’t have a lot in common we do share a love for the New York Yankees . Over this past season Yankees fans have been saying goodbye to one of their all-time favorites: Derek Jeter.

Jeter’s tenure has defined the Yankees over the past 20 years. His attitude, professionalism, and leadership have been emblematic of the Yankees organization during this era. While many fans, pundits, commentators etc. might want to talk about his leadership, greatness as a player, or how overrated he is  I’d like to focus on something that’s often discussed but rarely analyzed: Jeter’s emotional control.

Jeter gave a very telling quote during one of his last press conferences:

“I almost lost it and I had to turn around. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions throughout the course of my career. I have them, I try to hide them, I try to trick myself and convince myself that I’m not feeling those particular emotions whether it’s nerves, whether I’m injured; pain. I just try to trick myself that I don’t have it.”

When I read this quote the other day I couldn’t help but think of emotional labor. Emotional labor is defined as “the requirement in some jobs that employees express emotions to customers or clients that are associated with enhanced performance in the job” (Muchinsky, 2012 p. 84). Employees are expected to exhibit certain emotions based on display rules. Display rules are defined as “specific behavioral acts that reflect the underlying emotions customers expect” (Muchinsky, 2012, p. 85).

I wonder how often Jeter had to suppress some genuine emotion he was feeling in order to express the emotions that fans, teammates, and ownership expected. While it’s expected that athletes manipulate their thoughts about injuries, It’s fascinating to hear someone admit to tricking themselves about their own emotions. This quote seems to serve as a Rosetta Stone for all of those sports fan who wondered why Derek Jeter was so boring in press conferences.

Ultimately, Jeter spent his entire career making the right choices emotionally. The costs of a lack of emotional control are evidenced by this past weekend’s Jets game where a lack of emotional control got Jets quarterback Geno Smith into trouble. Despite everything that Jeter went through he never had an emotional blow up like the one Geno Smith experienced. Was Jeter merely controlling his emotions or did his control exhibit something deeper? In other words, were the display rules that seemed to dictate Jeter’s behavior surface acting or deep acting? I found another quote quite informative on this question:

“But for me, I’ve always said it time and time again, the most sacred thing, the thing that means the most to me is to be remembered as a Yankee. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be is to be a Yankee. And I have to thank the Steinbrenner family that’s here today, and our late owner, The Boss, because they gave me the opportunity to pretty much live my dream my entire life, and the great thing about being a Yankee is you’re always a Yankee, so in that sense it never ends. So being a Yankee is good enough for me.”

Perhaps the secret to Jeter’s emotional control lies in his commitment to the organization. Work commitment is defined as “the extent to which an employee feels a sense of allegiance to his or her work” (Muchinsky, 2012, p. 308). Perhaps there’s no surface or deep acting involved in this emotional labor. Perhaps its just Jeter’s commitment to his dream job.

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