Retail Workers' Job Experiences: An Analysis of Emotional Labor, Commission Pay, and Stress




Denman, Alissa L.

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Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with nineteen commission paid retail workers from three levels of department stores as well as small business, nondepartment stores. Data from these interviews were used to examine emotional labor and stress in commission paid retail workers’ interactions with customers and co-workers. Participants were found to engage in emotional labor not only to benefit the store they were employed by, but to benefit themselves financially as their behavior in front of customers influenced the sales they made. Commission pay gave employees control over the emotional labor they chose to engage in, which led to a sense of job autonomy. While all participants employed emotional labor in their interactions with customers, only eight did so with co-workers. Participants experienced various forms of stress, the most common being lack of customers in the store and the competition between co-workers for customers. Employees from one level of store did not differ from employees in other levels of stores in their feelings about particular issues. This study contributes to existing literature on emotional labor and stress, while incorporating the influence of commission pay.



Clerks, Stress, Sales personnel, Salaries, Retail trade


Denman, A. L. (2004). <i>Retail workers' job experiences: An analysis of emotional labor, commission pay, and stress</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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