The Role of Emotional Labor in Services: How Employee Emotional Labor Influences Organizational Outcomes

by Karyn Wang

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Management
Year: 2015
Keywords: Emotion Regulation; Emotional Labor; Emotions; Service Management
Record ID: 1043747
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54292


Emotional labor concerns the intrapsychic experience of managing feelings and displays in order to produce appropriate emotional displays for the purposes of work. Most of the emotional labor literature concerns how its performance affects employee outcomes, such as strain and burnout. However, the commonly held assumption that emotional labor is performed for the benefit of the organization has received less attention, with largely inconsistent findings. In this thesis, I present three disparate studies that examine the relationship between employee emotional labor and customer service outcomes more closely. In the first study, I test whether the inconsistent findings regarding the effects of surface acting on customer outcomes can be, in part, attributed to the conceptualization of surface acting and the moderating role of the service context. In the second study, I examine whether the commonly assumed, but rarely tested, concept of nonconscious emotional labor can be triggered by standard priming procedures and compare the effects of nonconscious emotional labor strategies with their conscious counterparts across a variety of social, cognitive, and affective service outcomes. Finally, in the third study, I consider the role of customer judgment processes and emotional intelligence in determining the extent to which employee’s surface acting is detrimental to customer service outcomes. Results suggest that suppressing negative emotions, but not faking positive emotions, has a negative impact on customer service outcomes, but only in service contexts that are highly personalized and when the customer and employee do not have an established relationship. Nonconscious reappraisal is associated with largely beneficial outcomes across a range of service outcomes, compared to their conscious counterparts, but nonconscious suppression is associated with poorer outcomes. Processes that enable more automatic and heuristic judgments predicts more accurate inferences regarding the affective performance of employees, but only when emotional intelligence is also high. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.