The restructuring of state bureaucracies into service organizations and the new welfare state paradigm of activation have changed the work requirements of front‐line workers in public employment agencies across Europe. Public employment agents are less engaged in bureaucratic labour, but have to perform service work. They use affective means to motivate and to monitor and sanction jobseekers. This article provides evidence that these transformations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland did not suspend the gendering of public service work. We discovered four typical modes of affectively enacting the state: both male and female employment agents follow feminized service work patterns or masculinized entrepreneurial norms. To prevent a possible loss of their professional status, some employment agents reinterpret affective labour as professional service work that demands high expertise. Others resist the activation paradigm by performing traditionally feminized care work or by still adhering to affect‐neutral male bureaucratic work.