All of you, who are familiar with the concept of emotional labour will remember that Arlie Russell Hochschild (1983) suggests two strategies of how employees respond to organizational demands to display certain emotions and to enact behavioural scripts – surface acting and deep acting. You might also remember research indicating the various detrimental effects emotional labour has for employees’ well-being or job satisfaction due to emotional dissonance (e.g. Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Abraham, 1999)
However, did you know that there is research suggesting that reacting through deep acting is actually better for your well-being compared to surface acting?
Pugh et al. (2011) discuss how particularly surface acting results in lower job satisfaction and higher levels of emotional exhaustion. They argue for example that employees lack control over their emotions and feel inauthentic when they engage in surface acting strategies. The mismatch between personal emotional states and organizational display rules induces emotional dissonance and as a consequence leads to emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, surface acting results in low job-satisfaction due to the uncomfortable dissonance between real and faked emotions (Bhave & Glomb, 2016) and it leads to higher rates of absenteeism (Nguyen et al., 2016).
The study of Xanthopoulou et al. (2018) on the relationship between emotional labour and the need for recovery proposes that employees, who engage in surface acting become more tired and therefore they feel a higher need for recovery after work. Depleting resources through surface acting result in exhaustion (Xanthopoulou et al., 2018). In contrast, using deep acting has positive effects for both employees’ daily well-being at work and their need for recovery after work. Through deep acting employees avoid a discrepancy between displayed and felt emotions and therefore they stay energetic (Xanthopoulou et al., 2018).
When employees engage in deep acting, absenteeism and turnover is reduced, argue Hülsheger and Schewe (2011) and Chau et al. (2009), since the emotions that are outwardly displayed are congruent with the ones inwardly summoned (Humphrey et al., 2015). In this sense deep acting hinders emotional dissonance and the associated negative consequences to occur. Deep acting “does not harm employee well-being, and deep acting is positively related with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance, and customer satisfaction”, as Humphrey et al. (2015, p. 749) summarize.
As a consequence, for example Hülsheger and Schewe (2011) claim that organizations should promote deep acting amongst their employees and train them to regulate their emotions in way that is healthy for both the employee and the employer.
I wonder what you and your students think of that.
Abraham, R. (1999). The Impact of Emotional Dissonance on Organizational Commitment and Intention to Turnover, The Journal of Psychology, 133(4), 441-455.
Ashforth, B. E., & Humphrey, R. H. (1993). Emotional Labor in Service Roles: The Influence of Identity. The Academy of Management Review, 18(1), 88-115.
Bhave, D. P., & Glomb, T. M. (2016). The Role of Occupational Emotional Labor Requirements on Surface Acting-Job Satisfaction Relationship. Journal of Management, 42(3), 722–741.
Hülsheger, U. R., & Schewe, A. F. (2011). On the Costs and Benefits of Emotional Labor: A Meta-Analysis of Three Decades of Research. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(3), 361-389.
Humphrey, R. H., Ashforth, B. E., & Diefendorff, J. M. (2015). The bright side of emotional labor. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36, 749– 769.
Nguyen, H., Groth, M., & Johnson, A. (2016). When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Working: Impact of Emotional Labor on Absenteeism. Journal of Management, 42(3), 615–643.
Pugh, S. D., Groth, M., & Hennig-Thurau, T. (2011). Willing and Able to Fake Emotions: A Closer Examination of the Link Between Emotional Dissonance and Employee Well-Being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 377-390.
Xanthopoulou, D., Bakker, A. B., Oerlemans, W. G., & Koszucka, M. (2018). Need for recovery after emotional labor: Differential effects of daily deep and surface acting. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39, 481-494.