What is emotional resilience and how can it benefit LAS?
Toward Fostering Emotional
Resilience in the Workplace
Those working with animals within a laboratory environment face intense emotional demands on a day-to-day basis. Euthanasia
particularly can be a source of guilt.
It is recognized that particular stress is
associated with jobs that require killing
animals for reasons other than alleviating pain and suffering.
In this article, I am going to look at
the importance of fostering emotional
resilience in the workplace for those
working with laboratory animals. I will
explore how lack of resilience and the
effects of emotional labor can lead to long
term sickness and experienced technicians
leaving the industry. I will discuss whether
organizations have a duty of care for their
employees and if emotional vulnerability
should form part of regular evaluations.
I am then going to look at what
emotional resilience training would look
like, how it would be measured in terms
of worth, and how establishments could
view this as an investment. Finally I will
conclude by looking at whether we are
heading toward such training becoming
a requirement as opposed to an option.
The Importance of Emotional
The six basic emotions (as identified by
Paul Ekman) are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. These can all
be felt in varying degrees by individuals
at any one time. In a research laboratory
involving the use of animals, all of
the above mentioned emotions
could be felt by each person in the
same day, creating a rollercoaster
effect. The ability to cope with such
emotional demands and behave appropriately is very important both for the
individuals and the animals with which
they are working.
Imagine what the working environment would be like if individuals had
no regulation over their emotions. If
an individual was angry or afraid, the
animals would 1) pick up on this and
2) demonstrate behavior to reflect this,
which is not ideal for animal welfare.
It is widely recognized that those
working in a caring profession develop
a higher emotional resilience, adapting
to stressful situations far more effec-
tively than those without such exposure.
The emotional demands on individuals
working with animals in research can be
considered to be far greater as they have
to balance potential conflict within
themselves and deal with the general
sense of disapproval from society.
Coupled with emotional resilience
is emotional labor. This is comprised of
both the faking and the suppressing of
emotion. Mann16 suggests that in the
workplace we hide emotions as much as
we fake them. So do we get to a point
where we lose track of what is real and
what is hidden? Do animal technicians
build such a strong resilience that they
become ‘immune’ to the natural emo-
tions they would have originally felt?
Arluke3 identified four aspects of
animal experimentation that can cause
uneasiness among many animal labo-
ratory technicians and how they ‘cope’
1. If technicians form strong attach-
ments to lab animals, they
can feel conflict
their nurturing and the experimental
manipulations that they perform.
Most technicians learn not to get too
2. The “euthanizing” of lab animals
becomes routine and stripped of special meaning for many technicians,
making sacrifice uncomfortably rote.
3. Technicians sometimes encounter
outsiders who are critical of animal
experimentation and ridicule them
for doing this work. Most technicians
avoid telling outsiders about their work
or take an educational approach to deal
with these awkward encounters.
4. Most technicians report some ethical
uneasiness about certain types of
experiments and their clinical value,
as well as about the use of certain animals, and they feel they cannot turn
to investigators or fellow technicians
to pursue such issues.
From these aspects, we can support
the notion that technicians do build up
a resilience, making
to expressing emotion in the workplace.
This emotional resilience is not taught,
but often built up over time through an
operant conditioning cycle.
and technicians become highly robust in
dealing with the day-to-day workplace
pressures they face.
Lack of Resilience and Long
Can regulating emotions over a pro-
longed period of time (emotional labor)
cause research technicians to be more
susceptible to long term sickness?
Mann16 emphasized that emotional
labor is a “double-edged sword,”
is thought to have negative outcomes
for the laborer. Wharton26 suggests that
“job demand, unique to occupations
involving emotional labor, can be
viewed as a source of job-related stress.”
Mann16 then went on to highlight other
negative consequences associated with
emotional labor, including general dis-
satisfaction, estrangement between self
and true feelings,
9 feeling robotic and
un-empathetic,1 role overload,
27 lack of
25 lack of openness with
15 and ultimately burnout.
Burnout is itself related to serious nega-
tive consequences such as deterioration
in the quality of service, job turnover,
absenteeism, and low morale.
also identified that burnout seems to be
correlated with various self-report indi-
ces of personal distress, including physi-
cal exhaustion, insomnia, increased use
of alcohol and drugs, and marital and
There are two key points here: 1)
emotional labor can be linked to stress
and 2) prolonged emotional labor can
lead to burnout. Both of these can
ultimately end in long-term sickness or
performance-related issues within the
workplace. It only takes an emotional
imbalance in one other area of an indi-
vidual’s life or additional work pressures
to trigger illness, stress, or burnout.
Davies and Lewis7 talk of emotional
dissonance in addition to emotional
resilience. Emotional dissonance is the
experience of an emotion that jeopardiz-
es an individual’s identity. They found
evidence that emotional dissonance does
occur in animal technicians and con-
firmed similarities with emotional labor.
Emotional dissonance probably sets in
as a coping mechanism for many techni-
cians. Taking on another identity can
help to mask any internal conflict.
But those working with animals in
research still have to deal with exter-